Wednesday, 19 May 2021
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
80. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his Department will shortly introduce specific measures to support the aviation industry and those employed within the sector. [26799/21]
The Government has put in place a range of supports for businesses, including the Aviation sector. These supports include the wage subsidy scheme, waiving of commercial rates, deferral of tax liabilities, the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme, the Credit Guarantee Scheme, and the SBCI Working Capital Scheme, with some of these now extended to 30 June 2021. In 2020, Irish airlines and airports availed of over €200 million through these supports. Liquidity funding is also available through the ISIF Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund for medium and large enterprises.
As regards supports specifically targeted at the protection of employment, the Employment Wage Subsidy Schemes (EWSS) has been a key component of the Government's response to the COVID-19 crisis to support viable firms and encourage employment amid these very challenging times.
In November 2020, in recognition of the very difficult circumstances facing the aviation sector, the Government agreed a revised funding package of €80 million specifically for Irish aviation in 2021. A part of this package, over €21 million, is being provided to our Regional Airports Programme (RAP). The new RAP, published on 4 February, gives funding certainty to those airports up to 2025. Those airports eligible for RAP support are Donegal, Kerry and Ireland West (Knock). Additionally, €32 million is being provided to Cork and Shannon Airports through a new one-year COVID-19 Regional State Airports Programme.
The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a €26 million Irish state aid scheme to compensate airport operators for the losses caused by COVID-19 and the travel restrictions imposed by Ireland to limit its spread. This scheme consists of three measures: a damage compensation measure; an aid measure to support the airport operators up to a maximum of €1.8 million per beneficiary; and an aid measure to support the uncovered fixed costs of these companies.
This scheme will augment the supports already in place and help the industry to maintain connectivity and to make a recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, and my Department hopes to begin disbursing compensation soon.
It cannot be excluded that further targeted supports may be required later in 2021, particularly in the event that restrictions on travel remain in place throughout this summer season.
My officials and I have maintained regular contact with key stakeholders throughout this crisis. On 5 March 2021, I chaired a special meeting of the Steering Committee of the National Civil Aviation Development Forum. A sub-group of the NCADF, specifically tasked with developing an Aviation Restart Plan at the meeting on 5 March, submitted a report dated 14 April with proposals that they believe will best provide for the restart and recovery of the aviation sector in Ireland. I will review this report, its proposals, the additional information on operational readiness requested, and I will also engage with other Ministers and Government as required.
Under the auspices of the Labour Employer Economic Forum, an aviation sub-group has also been charged with looking at the needs of the aviation sector in Ireland in the context of the impact of COVID-19. This sub-group, which I chair, is attended by delegations from labour and employer representative bodies. This sub-group is examining a proposal for a special extended Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme specifically for the aviation sector.
The Government is fully alert to the devastating impact of the global pandemic on international travel and values the critical role that aviation plays in the Irish economy. It is expected that it may be some time before it is possible to permit a large-scale return to air travel, but we are committed to progressing the work that will allow the sector to quickly rebound when circumstances allow.