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Dáil told almost €2.5bn needed for virus battle


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Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Leo Varadkar

The Government sought approximately €2.5bn in extra funding to help the health service and businesses tackle the fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

The sum includes spending of up to €1bn on personal protective equipment (PPE) for the health service and almost €500m for supporting businesses hit by the Covid-19 emergency.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and Tánaiste and Enterprise Minister Leo Varadkar laid out the huge sums required as the Dáil met for the first time since the Government was formed.

Mr Donnelly sought Dáil approval for almost €2bn in extra funding.

He warned that unless the funding was signed off on, the health service would run out of funds by August.

Mr Donnelly said the extra money sought would bring the department's budget to almost €20bn - but also that is unlikely to be the full sum required this year.

Earlier Tánaiste Leo Varadkar sought almost €500m in extra funding to help businesses reopen and recover from the economic hit of the crisis.

Mr Varadkar said his new enterprise department was seeking €483m in additional funding over what it had been estimated to need in 2020.

He said the events of the past four months have been "without precedent" with lives lost and businesses closed.

Mr Varadkar said it was his responsibility to help restore confidence and prosperity and he said the planned July stimulus package will have to be "radical and far-reaching".

He said he was seeking revised estimates for his department's budget to help enterprises to survive the emergency.

The €483m includes €180m for the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, enabling Enterprise Ireland to allocate grants.

The 'Restart Grant' scheme needs €250m for small businesses and micro-enterprises who have suffered a massive loss of turnover and need help to reopen.

It is believed that 100,000 businesses will apply for the grants of between €2,000 and €10,000.

Mr Varadkar said some of the extra funding is also needed to help businesses respond to Brexit.

Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster said her party would support the revised estimates, but she also criticised the scale of the €250m restart grant scheme, adding that other countries have offered more support to their businesses.

Mr Varadkar said there was still €180m in funding out of €250m for the restart grants.

He said a revised estimate will be needed for the July stimulus package.

Irish Independent