Written answers

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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59. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment his plans for further measures to assist the business sectors negatively impacted by Covid-19, bearing in mind that the virus will remain a threat for some time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29720/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I am acutely aware that until a COVID-19 vaccine or treatment is widely available, the necessary responses to protect public health will continue to impact economic activity.

I would remind the Deputy that much has already been done to assist enterprises through the crisis.

Ireland came through the initial economic shock with unparalleled levels of State intervention aimed at stabilising the economy and supporting businesses, employment and incomes. Over €24½ billion had been made available in support measures as of September 2020, including the July Jobs Stimulus package of over €7 billion.

The total budgetary package of over €17¾ billion announced in Budget 2021 is unprecedented in both size and scale in the history of the Irish State further demonstrating the Government’s commitment to supporting the country through this crisis.

The €3.4 billion Recovery Fund, a cornerstone of the Government’s economic response in 2021, will continue to support the labour market helping people get back into work, training or education; and building confidence among businesses and consumers, promoting investment and protecting jobs. It will support both those in employment and those whose jobs have not survived the pandemic.

With the Budget providing for an increase in core capital spending programmes of some €1.6 billion in 2021, the Government will invest in job-rich infrastructure projects which are regionally distributed and on insulating the economy, as much as possible, from the fallout from Covid and Brexit. We will use these measures to get as many people back to work as quickly as possible and to mitigate against any potential scarring from long-term unemployment.

The further extension of the EWSS until the end of December 2021 marks a historic intervention by Government to support employment in businesses affected by this pandemic. It ensures that the link between the employer and the employee is maintained and assists businesses to continue to trade in spite of reduced demand. We are also promoting the take-up of available employment by allowing self-employed PUP recipients to take up intermittent or occasional work opportunities without losing their PUP entitlement.

We are managing difficult trade-offs to allow the economy to operate as fully and effectively as possible to minimise permanent loss of economic activity while safely living with Covid-19. I am aware that despite this approach, some businesses, particularly in the entertainment, arts and hospitality sectors remain badly impacted by restrictions. The COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) is being introduced to help businesses who are severely restricted to meet ongoing costs through periods of restriction and provide employment as restrictions are eased and activity resumes.

Over the medium-term, our overarching expectation is that with the right set of policies we will be on the other side of this crisis and in recovery mode from 2022 onwards although high levels of unemployment are likely to take longer to address. The National Economic Plan, to be published in November, will look to the future setting the vision and roadmap to 2025 and the longer-term policy approaches to ensure that our economy will be resilient into the future.

The National Economic Plan will focus on ensuring a balanced recovery, building resilience across enterprise and sectors and future proofing the economy and society with a focus on the digital and green transformation of enterprise. SME productivity will be at the heart of the plan. At the same time, it will aim to maximise the potential of the FDI sector in Ireland and strengthen linkages between these sectors.

Photo of Aindrias MoynihanAindrias Moynihan (Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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60. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment his plans to support businesses following the announcement of level 3 Covid-19 restrictions in view of the fact that additional measures of support are available for counties Donegal and Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29850/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Government made the decision that from midnight on the 6th of October, all remaining counties were to be placed on Level 3 for a period of 3 weeks until midnight on 27th October 2020, at which point we will again review the situation, based on the status of the virus and public health advice.

I understand that these restrictions will have a significant impact on businesses and employment around the country. In recognition of the impact of these restrictions on businesses a 30% top-up to the Restart Plus grant will be provided to help support those affected through the three-week period. Businesses who have previously benefited from the Restart Grant will be eligible to re-apply for this top-up.

This is in addition to the €7bn July Stimulus of supports for firms of all sizes, which includes the wage subsidy scheme, the pandemic unemployment payment for the self-employed, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cashflow amongst SMEs to assist with restructuring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week's Budget contains targeted actions to help business where they are hurting most. The 9% VAT rate will help hotels, pubs, restaurants and other businesses in the entertainment, tourism and hospitality sectors. The extension of the commercial rates holiday will help reduce the fixed cost of doing business. The new CRSS programme will provide closed or effectively closed business a payment based on their turnover up to €5,000 per week. This will make a really big difference and will be paid in addition to the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

I continue to work with my colleagues across Government to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19 to adapt to the changing business landscape. Budget 2021 is testament to our commitment to supporting vulnerable but viable businesses in all sectors of the economy. In the coming weeks, we will be finalising the report from the SME Growth Taskforce, which will input to next month's National Economic Plan.

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