Thursday, 17 December 2020
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
92. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will introduce an enterprise and trade support scheme similar to and-or the equivalent of the Covid-19 restrictions support scheme for businesses that are not subject to business rates and-or conduct trading activities from a business premises located in a region subject to restrictions in view of the fact that the Covid pandemic unemployment payment and the employment wage subsidy scheme are not particularly appropriate to certain business models within the tourism and live entertainment sectors. [43719/20]
Will the Tánaiste consider the introduction of a trade support scheme equivalent to the Covid restrictions support scheme, CRSS, for businesses that are not subject to commercial rates and do not operate from a business premises, in view of the fact that the pandemic unemployment payment and wage subsidy scheme are not especially appropriate to certain business models in the tourism and live entertainment sectors?
The Covid-19 restrictions support scheme was introduced to provide targeted compensation to those businesses adversely affected by the imposition of public health restrictions. It has advantages over the restart and restart plus grants as the amounts payable under the scheme can be varied depending on the length of time that restrictions are in place. The level of payment also reflects the turnover of the affected businesses under normal trading conditions. At present, businesses without a fixed premises cannot avail of the CRSS. For such firms, their fixed costs will likely be lower as a proportion of their total expenses than businesses with fixed premises. However, these business can avail of the employment wage subsidy scheme to help to meet payroll costs and other interventions such as warehousing of tax liabilities and VAT reduction.
In the recent budget, the Government allocated significant additional resources to Departments to provide help to different sectors. Nearly €400 million was provided to the Department of Transport and €222 million was provided to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. These additional moneys will go towards supporting businesses, including those not in receipt of the CRSS, such as the €30 million scheme for private bus operators, a €55 million scheme for strategic tourism businesses, and a €50 million scheme for the live entertainment sector. There have also been special packages for taxi drivers and wet pubs. These are in addition to financial assistance provided by Enterprise Ireland, InterTradeIreland and local enterprise offices. I recognise the issues raised by the Deputy and I have received representations on it. My officials are working with the Department of Finance to identify the type and number of businesses that fall outside the scope of the CRSS and are not covered by other sectoral schemes, and to report back to me with proposals on how we could amend CRSS or develop a new scheme for those companies that have fallen between stools.
It is welcome that it is under consideration. Fáilte Ireland has a €10 million fund called the Ireland-based inbound agents business continuity scheme but it is complex. The information that is required is substantial and not accessible to many small businesses. The entertainment and tourism sector will be terribly important for our recovery. We need to make sure that they are able to pick up, to a degree, where they left off, so that they can recover quickly. Online travel agents, production companies, event planners and associated businesses are all excluded from this grant. The running costs do not cease. I understand that there is a cost of a business premises but, for example, a small tour bus operator will have insurance costs and probably leases on buses, depreciation costs, insurance costs and so on. Tour companies that earned a commission had to return it because people could not go ahead with their holidays. There is a significant disadvantage for this sector.
It is important to bear in mind that any and all firms can qualify for the employment wage subsidy scheme. That is designed to help with the cost of the payroll and keeping staff on. The CRSS is designed to help with fixed, non-employment-related costs of keeping a company going. Those non-payroll costs tend to relate to the cost of running a premises. I mentioned sectoral schemes for taxi drivers, wet pubs and private bus operators. There is €50 million for strategic tourism businesses and €50 million for the live events sector. Those will be rolled out in January. I appreciate that even with those across-the-board and sectoral schemes, there will be a number of orphan companies that might be able to avail of the wage subsidy scheme but cannot avail of any other schemes. That is the kind of work that we are now doing with the Department of Finance, with a plan to have proposals in January to have either a modification of CRSS or a new scheme for those companies, recognising the fact that they fall between those stools.
I am not sure if the Tánaiste is aware of domestic destination management companies, which link golf courses, hotels and taxis. They do all the booking. Essentially, they do not have to operate from a business premises. They are key to the reason people will come here on holidays because all of their requirements are pre-booked. Somebody does that. This is the type of company that is falling through this crack. There is no question of them being able to avail of, for example, the €480 per month that some companies can get and they cannot operate because of the necessary restrictions that have been imposed in relation to the pandemic. This is an example of the type of company I am speaking about.
A company like that qualifies for the employment wage subsidy scheme and so it would receive money towards its payroll costs. The question in regard to a company like that is what its non-payroll costs are. In other words, what are the fixed costs not related to payroll that it has to cover? That is the kind of issue we are trying to explore at the moment. Without a premises, a business's fixed costs should be relatively low. Even still, a company like that might be able to quality for the new strategic tourism business scheme. There is €55 million available under that scheme, which will be launched soon by the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Catherine Martin. Again, I appreciate the fundamental point the Deputy is making, which is correct, namely, there are going to be companies that fall between schemes and we will need to design a scheme to do something for them. That is what we intend to do.