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Larger grants for businesses, extended wage subsidies and tourism vouchers ‘should be in stimulus package’


Independent TD Michael McNamara Photo: Tom Burke

Independent TD Michael McNamara Photo: Tom Burke

Independent TD Michael McNamara Photo: Tom Burke

Larger grants to help pandemic-hit businesses, an extension to the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS), and the possibility of vouchers for the hospitality sector should form part of a stimulus package, according to a cross-party Dáil Committee

The government is to announce its July stimulus package next week.

The Dáil’s Special Committee on Covid-19 Response has today published a report that includes 19 recommendations aimed at boosting the economy.

They include changing the Restart Grant Scheme to increase the average value of the grants and to make it available to more businesses.

The committee also says the Government must ensure that the TWSS remains available to firms that will operate below capacity due to Covid-19 and that “any tapering off of supports should have a significant lead in-time.”

And the report says the Government should “examine the feasibility and benefits of a voucher scheme for all residents, to be spent supporting the domestic tourism sector.”

Tánaiste and Enterprise Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday poured cold water on suggestions that such a voucher scheme - as proposed by Sinn Féin - should be included in the July stimulus.

He questioned how effective it would be in helping businesses that remain closed or restricted.

Other measures in the committee’s report are the need for a “sector-by-sector approach to the July Stimulus Package” so that the supports are targeted and a significant reduction in the interest rate for MicroFinance Ireland loans.

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Committee Chairman Michael McNamara TD said: “The survival of many small businesses will depend on an injection of liquidity and the availability of other supports, and only the State can do this.”

He said that organisations that appeared before the committee told TDs that “many small businesses in particular, will have significantly reduced revenue on top of the fact that many will have to meet the cost of stock that was acquired prior to the shut-down that has lost a huge part of its value.

“We need those enterprises to survive as they will lead and create jobs when we move on from this pandemic, which we will.”

The report examines the specific challenges faced by particular sectors - arts and entertainment - that cannot resume business.

Mr McNamara said: “For many in these sectors, their schedules were cancelled and that ranges from theatre groups to the small bands that played at weddings and pubs at weekends.

“These sectors need specific support as they are a vibrant part of our unique lifestyles and the value they bring will far exceed the grant support that should be made available to them.”

The report also recommends that consideration should be given to the costs and benefits of reducing the VAT rate in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

It says the Government should increase the availability of apprenticeship schemes in order to reduce youth unemployment and increase the skills-level in the labour force.

The report recommends that the commercial rates waiver should be extended to the end of the year for businesses who will continue to operate below capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions.

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