I recognise that COVID-19 has had a profound impact on public transport and the small public service vehicle industry, and that many limousine operators have been acutely affected due to their particular dependence on overseas tourism. Many limousine businesses are seasonal in nature meaning that COVID-19 has effectively prevented many operators from earning any revenue this year. In recognition of this, a number of important measures have been put in place.
Limousine operators have benefited from the actions taken by the statutory regulator, the National Transport Authority (NTA), to reduce the immediate financial burden on SPSV operators and to make it easier for them to return to the industry when circumstances change. These actions included licence extensions, the waiver of late licence renewal fees and, in conjunction with the motor insurance industry, the suspension of SPSV insurance for those operators who decided to temporarily stop working and suspend their licences. Since the onset of the pandemic, the NTA has communicated regularly with individual SPSV operators in relation to the impact of COVID-19 on the SPSV industry. It has also published information on its website for the SPSV industry, including guidance on the installation of screens and guidelines on how to keep vehicles clean to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The Government’s July Stimulus Package, co-ordinated by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, built on the extensive enterprise and employment supports already deployed by Government in response to COVID-19 with the aim of helping to get Ireland’s businesses, including SPSV businesses, back on their feet. The Department of Transport and the NTA - the statutory taxi regulator - have been working together alongside other Government Departments to ensure that SPSV operators, many of whom are self-employed, can avail of the range of COVID-19 financial support measures to the greatest extent possible.
Self-employed limousine operators can avail of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), which remains open to new applicants until the end of the year and is available until April 2021. On exiting the PUP, operators can avail of the COVID-19 Enterprise Support Grant. A once-off grant of up to €1,000, this grant can be used towards the costs associated with reopening a business, including the purchase of cleaning materials and personal protective equipment.
Self-employed SPSV operators, including those in the chauffeur sector, who were profitable in 2019 but not in 2020 due to COVID-19, may be able to avail of an income tax relief allowing for up to €25,000 of losses from this year to be offset against profits from 2019. They can also avail of liquidity and investment measures such as the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme and the COVID-19 Business Loans Scheme, both of which fall within the aegis of my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
Finally, I should also mention that, in recognition of the nexus between limousine operators and the tourism industry, in July it was arranged to have the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Small Public Service Vehicles appointed to the Fáilte Ireland Industry Advisory Group to ensure that the interests of these operators are appropriately represented as the Government plans the recovery of the tourism and hospitality sectors.