Written answers

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Joe Flaherty (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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153. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of businesses in counties Longford and Westmeath that have received support under the restart grant and the restart grant plus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43805/20]

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 get back on their feet after what has been 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 €300m from the Government’s July Jobs 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 that 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 urgent financial assistance to small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The Restart Grant Plus scheme closed to new applications on 31 October and the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) operated by the Revenue Commissioners is now in place.

In response to the Deputy’s specific question and as at 11 December 2020, Longford County Council has awarded Restart Grant payments to 664 businesses. 671 businesses have benefitted from grant payments under the Restart Grant Plus Scheme.

Westmeath County Council has awarded Restart Grant payments to 1,123 businesses, with 1,168 businesses benefiting from payments under the Restart Grant Plus Scheme.

In total, over 118,600 applications have been managed under both Restart schemes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the 31 local authorities and the Local Government Management Agency for the efficiency with which they have managed applications under both schemes.

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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154. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has considered additional grant aid support for the wet pub sector since it has been under enforced closure for nine months and has had to remain closed during the sectors busiest period of the year. [43824/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I am keenly aware that publicans are making a massive sacrifice to protect their communities. I am committed to ensuring that the Government offers as much assistance as possible. A comprehensive range of measures is in place for firms of all sizes, including the wage subsidy scheme, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities and is available on my Department’s website.

The Revenue Commissioners' COVID Restrictions Support Scheme offers a temporary sector-specific support to businesses forced to close or trade at significantly reduced levels by up to €5,000 per week. For those that unfortunately have had to stay closed, including wet pubs, three double weeks of the CRSS will be paid, as December is normally the busiest time of the year for these businesses.

The Employment Wage Support Scheme was announced as part of Budget 2021. Changes were also made to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the EWSS, increasing the top rate to €350 for those who were earning in excess of €400 per week.

My colleague, Minister Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Social Protection, recently announced the doubling of the PUP threshold to €960 over an eight-week period. This will help people to restart their businesses and allow self-employed people to take on intermittent jobs.

Budget 2021 overall provides a significant package of tax and expenditure measures to build resilience and help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the Credit Guarantee Scheme.

A six-month reduction in VAT rates down from 23% to 21%, and from 13.5% to 9% will benefit the hospitality sector, as well as a range of additional public capital investment measures to support the domestic economy.

I will continue to work with my colleagues to identify practical actions to help businesses.

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