Thursday, 15 July 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
91. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development her ongoing proposals and initiatives required arising from the impact of Covid-19 in all areas of the country, urban and rural; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38180/21]
To what extent have the various schemes available to the Minister been made available throughout the country in connection with Covid? To what extent does she continue to review the progress of those schemes, with the possibility of intervention at a later stage if necessary?
I thank the Deputy for his question. Given the role of my Department in supporting the economic and social development of rural Ireland, as well as community development throughout Ireland, all of our existing funding schemes support the response to, and recovery from, the pandemic in some way. However, several specific targeted measures are aimed at directly supporting the Covid response and recovery. The main focus has been on community development supports, as reflected in the increase in gross expenditure for that programme area from €149 million in 2019 to €202 million in 2020.
My Department continues to provide Covid-19 supports to communities right across the country. On 6 May, I launched the 2021 stability fund, with an allocation of €10 million targeting organisations that deliver critical services to vulnerable people within their community but now face closure or loss of service due to the impact of the pandemic. This €10 million investment builds on the €45 million stability fund 2020 which supported almost 600 organisations across the country.
The application process for the 2021 stability fund has now closed, with applications appraised and assessed in batches to facilitate timely drawdowns. Decisions will be released on an ongoing basis. I was pleased to announce tranche 1 of successful grantees under the 2021 stability fund on 9 July, supporting 180 organisations with close to €4.5 million in allocations. Further tranches will follow in due course.
The €4.5 million 2021 community enhancement programme will provide vital supports to assist local groups to reopen their facilities post Covid-19. Adjustments to programmes delivered by my Department, such as town and village renewal and CLÁR, have been made where required to further support communities during the pandemic.
I thank the Minister of State. How are the various projects progressing and being taken up? Is there a further requirement to revisit these schemes in light of the impact of Covid? To what extent are the current proposals and provisions deemed sufficient to meet the requirements in full?
I thank the Deputy for his concern for the sector at large. The stability fund last year offered us a unique opportunity to do a kind of health check or get a good snapshot of where the community and voluntary sector was and it allowed us to support the sector. The new stability fund offers additional support in that regard. Without going into detail, I am hopeful and satisfied that, by and large, the community and voluntary sector will bounce back. Obviously, some organisations will suffer more than others but, on the whole, in terms of the applications coming in and the amount of support we will provide, I am hopeful that the sector as a whole will prove its resilience.
I will provide figures that may be of interest to the Deputy in the context of Covid supports to County Kildare. Under the Covid-19 stability scheme last year, €490,000 was disbursed to projects in Kildare, as was €66,000 under the community enhancement programme, €181,000 through the community enhancement programme for community centres under the July stimulus package, and €94,000 under the emergency fund.
Can the Minister of State indicate whether, based on his observations and ongoing dialogue with the various groups concerned in County Kildare and elsewhere in the country, there is a greater need for further intervention in specific areas?
There is no single overarching area or geographical area that springs to mind in that regard but we are monitoring the situation very closely. The community enhancement programme was launched recently and we will be getting feedback from the local authorities that manage those schemes in terms of demand and the types of projects that were seeking supports. We keep an ear close to the ground in terms of feedback on the various schemes and closely monitor the applications that come in to help us to get a full and deep picture of the financial situation of the community and voluntary sector as a whole. We are looking closely at the matter. No decisions have been made yet but, on the whole, we are very hopeful that the sector will bounce back strongly.