Thursday, 16 December 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Cognisant of what the Ceann Comhairle said, I am not going to make any particular remark about any particular company or any particular individual. What I can say in the round is that it is my view that companies that have recorded substantial profits this year or are in the position to pay substantial dividends should refund the money they received under the employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS. A number of companies have done so. They received the money in good faith. They did not know how hard they would be hit by the pandemic. The EWSS allowed them to keep on staff that they might otherwise have let go or put on short time. However, if it turned out that the year was a good one for the company and it made substantial profits and could pay its shareholders a dividend and did not really need the wage subsidy money, then I think that money should be repaid. That is the view of the Government as well.
Both the wage subsidy scheme and the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, were organised and designed in a hurry. We needed to get money out to workers and businesses quickly. We always knew that some people would not necessarily need the money. That applied to both schemes. However, particularly when it comes to the wage subsidy scheme, where substantial profits are made by companies or they find themselves in a position to pay dividends, it is appropriate they should return that cash to the taxpayer. Some companies have done that, in fairness. Others have not and they should.