Dáil debates

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Grant Payments

11:10 am

Christopher O'Sullivan (Cork South West, Fianna Fail)
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8. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment if the deadline for the restart grant plus can be extended past the end of September 2020; and if the extended deadline of October 2020 for bed and breakfast establishments is open to businesses which are not registered with Fáilte Ireland. [25955/20]

Christopher O'Sullivan (Cork South West, Fianna Fail)
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Will the Tánaiste or the Minister of State, Deputy English, be taking my question? I want to know where to look.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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The Tánaiste will respond.

Christopher O'Sullivan (Cork South West, Fianna Fail)
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The question is slightly outdated, probably because there was a change in the rota.

It is still relevant. What is the future of the restart grant plus after 31 October? I still have no clarity on whether bed and breakfasts that are not registered with Fáilte Ireland can apply for the restart grant plus. Some businesses which are not registered are not able to get certainty on that.

11:20 am

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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To answer the Deputy's questions, the restart grant has, in many ways, now been superseded by the budget announcement on Tuesday of the Covid restrictions subsidy scheme, CRSS, which will provide a weekly grant to businesses that are closed as a result of Government orders relating to the pandemic, with the proviso that they may operate at a very reduced turnover, that is, they are down 80% on where they were last year.

The restart grant plus is a critically important tool to support micro and small businesses to reopen their doors and get back on their feet. The closure date for receipt of applications has been extended to 31 October. It is designed to contribute to the cost of reopening or keeping a business operational or reconnecting with employees and customers. The grant could also be used to defray ongoing fixed costs during closure, such as, for example, utilities, insurance or refurbishment, or for measures to ensure employee and customer safety. It is one of a package of financial and other supports available to businesses. As of 9 October, the original restart grant had 45,000 applications with €155 million approved. The restart grant plus had just under 55,000 applicants with €273 million approved.

The restart grant scheme for bed and breakfasts is being run through Fáilte Ireland in consultation with my Department and the Department of the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin. The grant allocation will assist bed and breakfast owners with the costs of reopening and operating their businesses. Applications for bed and breakfasts under the National Quality Assurance Framework, NQAF, through direct approval by Fáilte Ireland, opened on 14 September and applications will close on 28 October. Fáilte Ireland will shortly announce details of the application process for bed and breakfasts which are not approved under the NQAF.

Christopher O'Sullivan (Cork South West, Fianna Fail)
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That leaves a further question in terms of the Fáilte Ireland element of the scheme. The Taoiseach said it would announce details shortly, but that is short notice if the deadline date remains 28 October or the end of the month. If there is a new tranche of bed and breakfasts included in the restart grant plus through Fáilte Ireland, is there merit in extending that deadline further for businesses that fit into that category?

While we are on Fáilte Ireland, there are businesses which have tried to get the same clarification I am now trying to get and are having difficulty in getting through to Fáilte Ireland by phone or email to get clarity and communication. I now make a plea for further resources for Fáilte Ireland so it can cope and deal with the communications that are being sought.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Deputy. I know this is of significant interest to him, in particular given his constituency of Cork South-West which is, was and should again be a great tourism constituency with many hotels and bed and breakfasts which are now really struggling.

The restart grant plus is funded through my Department, but we decided when it comes to bed and breakfasts the most sensible thing would be to administer the scheme through Fáilte Ireland, as that is the Government body that knows bed and breakfasts best. The detailed administration falls to an agency that is not under my remit. The reason we set up the grant was to put cash into the hands of the owners of bed and breakfasts so that they can survive to open another day next summer. I would not have any difficulty in recommending to the Minister, Deputy Martin, that the deadline be extended for unregistered bed and breakfasts. There is little point in advertising a grant and not giving people enough time to apply for it.

Christopher O'Sullivan (Cork South West, Fianna Fail)
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I appreciate that. My last question concerns CRSS. I thank the Minister for naming it after me. It is a great name for a scheme. I welcome the scheme. It will be fantastic. It is one of a range of brilliant measures in the budget to support businesses. I must commend the Minister and the rest of the Cabinet on that.

I hope there was an error in a couple of printed press articles that stated that the turnover cap for businesses that apply for the scheme was €2 million. Given that the restart grant figure is €25 million, I presume that was a printing error because it would not make sense for many businesses and would take a lot of businesses out of the scheme. I would like clarity on that if possible.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Deputy. I will have to double check the figure. Quite a few details will need to be ironed out in respect of this particular scheme. Some 98% of businesses in Ireland have a turnover of less than €1 million. This scheme is very much aimed at the SME sector. As I understand it, it involves 10% of the first €1 million and 5% of the second €1 million up to a maximum grant of €5,000 per week. It applies to companies that have turnovers of €4 million, €5 million or €6 million, but they can only claim for the first €3 million. I am almost sure of that, but I will double check the figures and confirm with the Deputy later.