Dáil debates

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

11:30 am

Cormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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99. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of businesses in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown that have received support under the restart and restart grant plus schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43788/20]

Cormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I acknowledge the level of support for businesses, which assists in keeping people in employment during the Covid crisis. It is unprecedented and extremely welcome. On the restart and restart plus grants, can the Minister provide information on both applications and decisions across Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The restart grant and restart grant plus schemes were designed to help small and medium-sized businesses during an exceptionally difficult time. The restart grant scheme was launched on 15 May, with a budget of €250 million. The restart grant plus scheme was launched on 10 August, with an additional budget of €300 million from the Government's July stimulus, as a result of the increasing demand for the scheme. The purpose of the schemes was to help with the cost of reopening or adapting business premises so normal business could resume. Grant payments were administered by the local authorities via the commercial rates system as this was considered the most effective means to get financial assistance to small businesses quickly. The restart grant plus scheme closed to new applicants on 31 October. The Covid restrictions support scheme, CRSS, operated by the Revenue Commissioners, superseded it.

In response to the Deputy's specific question, as of 11 December 2020 Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council has awarded 1,191 restart grants, and 1,646 businesses have benefited from grant payments under the restart grant plus scheme. In total, 118,600 applications have been managed under both restart schemes across the country.

Cormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Tánaiste for that. It is very encouraging to hear about the level of support, amounting to 118,600 applications, 1,646 restart plus grants and 1,191 restart grants. I pay tribute to Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council because it, like many other authorities, processed an unbelievable number of applications in a very short period. The grants have really gone to the core to assist businesses as they struggle through the pandemic.

Regarding the supports to businesses outlined by the Tánaiste, maybe he will provide additional information on the number of applications by comparison with the number of approvals, and also information on issues that arose during the process.

11:40 am

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I join the Deputy in thanking and congratulating the staff in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, and county councils throughout the country, for doing such a good job in processing all these applications. It was not a part of their normal work. They were asked to do it and it took a few weeks to get going, but they did it and they did it well. We rightly congratulate and thank healthcare worker and other essential and front-line workers for the work that they have done during this pandemic, but we should not forget the people behind the scenes in administrative jobs in offices, without whom nothing else would happen and without whom this money would not have gone out to those businesses. Some of those businesses might not have survived and people might have lost their jobs in the run-up to Christmas. I offer that shout-out to all those people who work in administration and management, whose work is also essential and who have made a big difference during the pandemic.

The Deputy asked about the number of applications and I do not have those figures here. I will send them to him by correspondence. In general, where applications were refused, it tended to be due to non-eligibility. I do not have the information for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown specifically, but for the country, there were 55,000 restart grant applications, of which 46,000 were approved. There were 63,600 for restart grant plus, of which 56,300 were approved. Where they were not approved, it was generally because a company was not eligible.

Cormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I would welcome those figures. I know that there is now discussion around the roll-out of vaccines, which is very welcome, but the impact of the pandemic is going to be with us for much of 2021. The Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, also acknowledged that while unemployment will remain at 15%, it may dip to 10% towards the end of 2021, which would be welcome. It is critical that we continue supports for businesses.

In response to an earlier question, the Tánaiste mentioned that the new strategic tourism scheme would be launched in January, which is welcome. I ask the Tánaiste, through his offices, to consider including car rental firms in that scheme. There are about five key companies in the country which need support and have fallen outside of many of the existing schemes. It is essential that they are brought in under the umbrella of the tourism scheme or another one, if possible.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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That is a €55 million scheme that will be administered by the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Catherine Martin. She and I are working closely together on tourism and hospitality issues because there is such an overlap between enterprise, employment, tourism and hospitality. I will certainly bring that matter to her attention but I cannot make a commitment here.

The Department of Finance and I are working on a modification to the Covid restrictions support scheme, CRSS, or indeed on a new scheme that will help out what I call "orphan companies" that have fallen between the stools and do not qualify for CRSS or one of the other specific sectoral support schemes that have been put in place along the way.

I had a quick look at the ESRI report this morning and it is interesting reading. It shows that Ireland's economy will grow this year, which people will be surprised to hear, given the pandemic. We will be one of few countries in the world where the economy may well grow this year. That is down to the strength of our multinational corporations and our commitment to international trade. I think those who doubt the benefit of having multinational corporations here, the policies we have out in place to attract them and our commitment to international trade really need to reconsider their positions. We would be in a worse position than we are now had it not been for all of that.