Thursday, 15 October 2020
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
12. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment the steps he intends taking to support trade, enterprise and employment during the current pandemic, particularly in those sectors worst hit by Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30261/20]
The Minister might outline in detail the new scheme introduced this week to support those sectors worst hit by Covid-19, and particularly those that have been closed down under the levels 3 and 4 restrictions. We have the broad outline of the scheme but we do not have the detail.
We will have more details next week. It will be operated by the Revenue. We intend that it will be open to applications next week. The first payments will be made to companies in November and it will be done on a weekly basis. It will be a payment to help cover their fixed costs when they are closed. It is largely focused at small and medium enterprises, SMEs, and the amount one can claim is based on one's turnover in 2019. It is 10% of the first €1 million and 5% of the second €1 million. The maximum grant that any company can claim is €5,000 a month. It is for companies that are closed as a consequence of Government restrictions so it is not for any company that may be closed for any reason. It is for companies that are closed directly as a consequence of Government public health restrictions, but the company does not have to be 100% closed. In recognising the fact that, say, restaurants or cafés are now only operating on a takeaway basis or 15 patrons outside basis, they can still make the claim and get the full amount if they are operating at a turnover that is down 80% from where it would have been in 2019, again on a weekly basis.
It has to have fallen 80% or more. The Minister might also explain to me the position regarding a restart grant and a restart grant plus. My understanding was that one could get both of those grants. However, without warning, the restart grant stopped three weeks before the originally announced date. Is any consideration being given to making the restart grant available to those who would have been eligible if they had applied within that three-week period, which ended suddenly? As I said, some people got two grants while others only got one.
There were two restart grants, as the Deputy knows. There was the original restart grant, which was set up by the previous Government, and then the restart grant plus, which was set up by the new Government as part of the July stimulus. The terms and conditions were different but some businesses were eligible to get both the restart grant and the restart grant plus. There is a small but substantial enough cohort of businesses that did not apply in time for the first restart grant but did get the restart grant plus. What we are asking them to do is put in an appeal to their local authorities and we will pay it. It varies from local authority to local authority. The original deadline for the restart grant was to be 31 August and when the restart grant plus came in and superseded it, there was a group of companies that did not apply in time for the restart grant but had they applied earlier they would have been entitled to it. We want to give them the grant and we have the money to do that. They should appeal to their local authority. If the local authority refuses the appeal the Deputy should let me know because the intention was that they should get both grants if they were eligible for both.
I guarantee the Minister that I will cut and paste what he has just said and make sure that they bring that to the attention of the local authority. I suspect that if the Department had persisted in playing this jiggery-pokery of pulling it back without notice three weeks before the originally announced date the Ombudsman would have ruled in favour of those who could have applied by the date set by the Department that was changed suddenly, but I welcome the Minister saving everybody the bother of going round the mountain to vindicate their rights.
It is only sensible at this time.
Disruptive technology companies are finding it difficult to get money in the markets now because private equity funds are very wary of investing. Is there any thought being given to allowing Enterprise Ireland to release some funds to the disruptive technology companies for which funding has been approved so they can get on with their business and, when things settle down, get the private equity to meet the requirements of Enterprise Ireland?
We are aware of that being an issue. Enterprise Ireland is working on a solution that will help to provide loans to those companies given what is happening in the markets. I will send the Deputy more detail in writing. We are aware of the issue, and Enterprise Ireland is working on a solution to it.
The Deputy, whose ministerial experience is showing, is quite right that I have no interest whatsoever in having a maladministration finding made against us by the Ombudsman. If one was entitled to both grants, one should get both grants.
We are now in an unusual position in that there is nobody in the Chamber to ask the next questions. We have time for one more question. Since Deputy Lahart is present, we can take Question No. 19.