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Varadkar seeks almost half a billion euro in extra funding to help Covid crisis-hit businesses

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Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

TÁNAISTE Leo Varadkar has sought almost half a billion euro in extra funding to help businesses reopen and recover from the economic hit of the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Varadkar, the new Enterprise Minister, told the Dáil that his Department is seeking €483m in additional funding, over what it was estimated to need this year.

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

Mr Varadkar said the emergency has taken a "terrible toll" and "things are still very difficult".

But he said confidence is slowly coming back and "people are hopeful again".

He said the government is seeking to give meaning to this hope by "backing business" and doing what it can to help.

Mr Varadkar said it's his responsibility to help restore confidence and prosperity and he said that the planned 'July stimulus' 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.

Mr Varadkar said the "stakes are high" and the government needs the authority of the Dáil for the extra funding.

He said 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's believed 100,000 businesses will apply for the grants of between €2,000 and €10,000.

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

He said the possibility that a trade deal won't be reached with the UK can't be ruled out.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that failure to approve the estimates would mean the Department and its agencies cannot legally continue schemes to help businesses impacted by Covid-19.

He said this would have "devastating consequences for businesses and their employees.

Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster said her party will support the revised estimates.

She said: "We’re in a situation where the entire sector of the economy are at risk of failure if state doesn’t provide adequate supports."

But she said she would have expected more then €250m for the restart grant and made criticisms of the scheme. She also asked if there will be a supplementary estimate to fund the July stimulus.

She also argued that other countries have provided more supports for businesses.

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

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

No one from Fianna Fáil had yet contributed to the debate on the estimates despite having an earlier 15 minute slot.

Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said there was "confusion" over speaking slots.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said he would be accommodated.

There was then confusion over whether Mr Collins would be sharing time with his party colleague Robert Troy.

Mr Collins wished Mr Varadkar well in his role as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

He said the July stimulus must have a "real and meaningful impact to allow businesses to plan with confidence."

Mr Troy raised the issue of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS).

He said it is important that it continues and suggested it should be tapered off only as businesses' turnover improves. He also said seasonal workers should be included in the scheme.

Mr Troy also said the Restart Grant scheme is "too restrictive and takes no account of the costs associated with reopening businesses" including providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and screening. He said the sums available are "not a lot of money for businesses that have been closed for 14 weeks and will have a large expense to reopen."

Online Editors