Thursday, 16 December 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
94. To ask the Minister for Finance the number of persons in counties Limerick and Clare, respectively, currently being supported by the employment wage subsidy scheme; the number of businesses in each county currently availing of the business resumption support scheme, BRSS; the number of businesses in each county currently availing of the Covid restrictions support scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62240/21]
98. To ask the Minister for Finance the number of persons in counties Kildare and Wicklow currently being supported by the employment wage subsidy scheme; the number of businesses in each county currently availing of the business resumption support scheme; and the number of businesses in each county currently availing of the Covid restrictions support scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62104/21]
106. To ask the Minister for Finance the number of persons in counties Offaly and Laois, respectively, currently being supported by the employment wage subsidy scheme; the number of businesses in each county currently availing of the business resumption support scheme; the number of businesses in each county currently availing of the Covid restrictions support scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62239/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 94, 98 and 106 together.
I am advised by Revenue that 22,100 businesses have claimed the CRSS and that a total of €704 million has been paid out. For the EWSS, that figure is now at more than €6.6 billion in respect of 696,900 employees and 51,700 employers.
In County Clare, the EWSS is in use for 630 employers and 6,725 employees, while 795 businesses are availing of the CRSS and 60 businesses are using the BRSS. In Limerick there are 970 employers and 10,930 employees on the EWSS, with the CRSS supporting 945 businesses and the BRSS supporting 75. I was also asked by Deputy Lawless about Kildare, where there are 950 employers and 12,055 employees on the EWSS, with 705 businesses on the CRSS and 55 on the BRSS.
This has been one of the real successes of the Covid pandemic. It has been 18 months of misery on the health front, for those in employment and those who are trying to shore up a business and keep it surviving at this time. This has been one of the successes in stabilising the economy and it is very much appreciated by those in business. I am glad 6,000 people in Clare are benefiting from it and that the Minister recently announced an extension of the EWSS for a further two months. I am also glad the Covid stability fund is there for businesses such as nightclubs that will have to remain closed until 9 January.
However, there are anomalies in these supports. Some 11,000 employees in the hotel sector are facing a degree of uncertainty at the moment because new criteria for the EWSS were introduced in budget 2022. The anomaly arises in the case of seasonal hotels like those in the west. A seaside hotel could be closed at this time but may have every intention of opening in the early spring. The other anomaly relates to largish hotels that might be doing pretty good trade in the lead-up to Christmas. They will have pulled out of the EWSS because of that trade but may not expect to be at those trading levels in January 2022. Due to that break in trading, they will be precluded from the EWSS for the first four months of 2022. That leads to a lot of uncertainty for them. I already mentioned the 11,000 jobs. Most of these are family-owned hotels or rural hotels in the west, but that model is also replicated in other parts of the country. They need an added degree of certainty. There has been a 60% collapse in bookings leading into Christmas. They are going to need a little more certainty as we face into the new year.
I thank the Deputy for recognising the role this role this scheme has played. It has been invaluable in supporting our domestic economy and it will lay the foundation for the continued economic recovery of Ireland from this pandemic. It is valued by many businesses that are on it at the moment.
Regarding the particular matter the Deputy has raised, I respectfully say that there is not an anomaly with regard to it. In fact, there is clarity regarding how people do or do not get into the scheme. I have been clear for some time that the business threshold is that there has to be a decline in turnover of 30% or more versus the reference period in 2019. I accept that in setting any business performance level there will be at times employers who are just outside of that, but that can happen in any threshold decision I make. If a company is not in the scheme at the moment, the most likely reason is that its business performance is higher and better than a 30% decline. I accept this is something that will pose a challenge for a number of employers at the moment, but it is a matter I have been clear about for some time in order to try to create the certainty that I know the Deputy values.
I thank the Minister for his response. Some hotels will be left out of the scheme. Elaina Fitzgerald has been on the airwaves quite a lot lately. She is head of the Irish Hotels Federation. Her hotel in Adare, County Limerick, is one such hotel that will probably do pretty well coming into Christmas, but will not benefit from the scheme. That is her analysis, something that is replicated throughout counties in the mid-west. The cost of supporting 11,000 jobs in the hotel sector for the month of January is approximately €4.2 billion. Stability and certainty needs to be in place because if jobs are not supported many people could end up on the PUP.
In my limited speaking time, I wish to refer to the revaluation of guest houses. I understood it was going to stop, but it is still happening. I was told many months ago that it does not make sense for a hotel on the Muckross Road in Killarney to have to pay commercial rates while a 40-bed bed and breakfast does not. That might be fair and true, but valuation people are calling to the doors of bed and breakfasts in Clare to measure their square footage. On top of dismal trading this year and last, they are now being asked to pay commercial rates. Their families live at one end of their houses and they have one or two beds at the other in order to make an income. They should not pay commercial rates. I ask that the Government step in and call a halt to this.
I was aware of the rates issue and I thank the Deputy for bringing it up. I will have my officials look into it because I appreciate that at this point in the year, given everything that has happened with this disease, the strain and anxiety that smaller hospitality businesses are facing is very intense. I will look into that for the Deputy.
On the EWSS, I need to indicate to the Dáil that I believe our health service will allow us to reach a point in the new year where we will need to phase out the EWSS. It is a scheme that has played an invaluable role in our economy, but it was primarily designed to deal with the threat of mass unemployment in our country. It has prevented the threat of mass unemployment, but we cannot find ourselves in a position as we move through 2022 that we have a labour market shortage and a high demand for workers while running the unemployment wage subsidy scheme at the same time. We are not at that point yet and that is why we have extended the scheme.
I wanted to ask a follow-up question on the EWSS which has been important in keeping businesses going. The Minister gave a county breakdown to Deputy Crowe. Does he have a similar breakdown of the sectors that are receiving EWSS?
The scheme involves a huge amount of money. A larger budget than many Departments have has been, and continues to be, spent on it. Are sectors still receiving the EWSS despite not being impeded by restrictions? Well over a year ago I asked the Minister to extend the EWSS to the hospitality sector when it reopened to help businesses claw back the many costs they incurred and to try to help them keep afloat as things reopened slowly. If sectors are in receipt of the EWSS but have not been under restriction for some time, I would be glad if the Minister could update the house on that.
I thank the Deputy for her question. I will share the full breakdown with her by sector which I have available to me. Very broadly, around 26% of the scheme was made available to the hospitality sector. After that, sectors such as retail are very high recipients of funding from the EWSS. It is available for sectors. I do not have the figures available now, but I will get the information sent onto the Deputy's office across the day.
On the Deputy's point on sectors that may not need support, it is important to state that the entry into the scheme is not done by sector but rather by business. In order to be on the scheme, a business performance has to indicate a decline of 30% or more. We could definitely make the case that some sectors are doing better than others, but even within sectors that are doing better, there will, as the Deputy will know, be firms that are experiencing challenging conditions because of public health guidance and, therefore, that is why they are on the scheme.