Dáil debates

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

11:50 am

Cormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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10. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the allocation to date provided under Covid-19 stability funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34087/20]

Cormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I understand that more than 1,000 community and voluntary organisations have applied for funding under the Government's €35 million Covid-19 stability fund. Can the Minister provide an update on this very important scheme?

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The Government is aware of the challenges facing community and voluntary organisations and is committed to working closely with the sector in managing those challenges, recognising that it will require a whole-of-government approach. The community and voluntary sector Covid-19 stability fund provided €35 million initially from the Dormant Accounts Fund. It was intended to be a targeted once-off cash injection for organisations and groups currently delivering critical front-line services to the people most at need in our society and which are in danger of imminent closure due to lost fundraised or traded income as a direct result of restrictions to counter the spread of Covid-19.

My Department received 1,060 applications during the application periods. To date, four tranches of successful applications have been announced, allocating funding of more than €30 million to 568 organisations. This funding is supporting the delivery of many critical front-line services in every part of the country. Though the fund is now closed to new applications, additional checks are continuing on a small number of applications and remaining outcomes will be communicated on an individual basis. Lists of successful applicants are available on my Department's website. 

An additional €10 million has been provided for the stability fund under budget 2021. My Department is currently finalising plans for the distribution of this funding and I expect to be making an announcement in that regard very shortly. The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, also has responsibility in this area and he is working on how the additional €10 million will be allocated. The extra funding is very welcome.

Cormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister for her answer. As she knows, community and voluntary sector organisations and social enterprises throughout the country have been hit very hard by the Covid-19 crisis. Nevertheless, many of them have been at the coalface of the response to the pandemic, whether through the Community Call or other initiatives. I acknowledge, as I am sure does everybody in the House, their efforts over the past nine months.

The Government's Covid-19 stability fund has provided significant assistance, as the Minister said, to more than 560 organisations impacted by the pandemic. I acknowledge, in particular, the allocation of €2 million for disability services in Dublin, which was targeted at services for people most at risk. It is critically important that we help these organisations with their short-term cash flow and it is good to know that funding is being prioritised for that purpose. I understand that a total of €30 million was allocated in four tranches since June. Can the Minister provide more details on the additional allocation of €10 million? If she does not have the information to hand, she might pass it on to me later. The organisations we are talking about really need to know where they stand in order to make plans for 2021 and beyond.

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, is looking at how best to administer the €10 million allocation. It has been assigned to us and we are very pleased to get it. He is working with stakeholders and officials to ensure it is targeted where it is most needed. That process will be completed very shortly.

In terms of the €5 million that was not spent by my Department, there are a number of instances where applications were submitted but certain information was not included. There is an appeals process and some projects have availed of that option and been successful. We want to engage with the applicants to make sure nobody is left out. Sometimes, what is happening in reality may not be reflected on the paper application. It is important that we engage with the organisations concerned.

Cormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister for her clarification. It is very welcome, particularly in respect of the €5 million that was not spent. There were questions around that. The additional €10 million announced in budget 2021 is important to the organisations looking to access it. Their future is uncertain, particularly in the event of another wave of Covid infections and if a vaccine is not forthcoming. As I said, it is very important that we provide them with information as soon as we can in order to assist them as they plan for 2021.

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I take the Deputy's point that the organisations want to get the details of this funding as quickly as possible. We are very conscious of that but we also want to ensure that it is properly targeted. It is a once-off cash injection for the organisations and groups that are delivering critical front-line services. They include disability services, meals on wheels, mental health services, addiction supports, residential care centres and services for older people. There is a range of services that are targeted in this initiative and the organisations have been really grateful for the support the Government has been able to give them. We will continue to engage with them and the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, will announce the details as soon as he has finalised them. The additional funding was only announced in the budget two weeks ago and the Minister is working on it.