I am keenly aware that publicans are making a massive sacrifice to protect their communities. I am committed to ensuring that the Government offers as much assistance as possible. A comprehensive range of measures is in place for firms of all sizes, including the wage subsidy scheme, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities and is available on my Department’s website. The Government's Restart Grant and Restart Plus Grant of €650m were specifically provided to ensure that businesses could access grant support to make necessary changes to premises to reopen safely.
The Employment Wage Support Scheme was announced as part of Budget 2021. Changes were also made to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the EWSS, increasing the top rate to €350 for those who were earning in excess of €400 per week.
My colleague, Minister Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Social Protection, recently announced the doubling of the PUP threshold to €960 over an eight-week period. This will help people to restart their businesses and allow self-employed people to take on intermittent jobs.
The Revenue Commissioners' COVID Restrictions Support Scheme offers a temporary sector-specific support to businesses forced to close or trade at significantly reduced levels by up to €5,000 per week. For those that unfortunately have had to stay closed, including wet pubs, three double weeks of the CRSS will be paid because December is normally the busiest time of the year for these businesses.
Budget 2021 overall provides a significant package of tax and expenditure measures to build resilience and help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the Credit Guarantee Scheme.
A six-month reduction in VAT rates down from 23% to 21%, and from 13.5% to 9% will benefit the hospitality sector. As well as a range of additional public capital investment measures to support the domestic economy.
I will continue to work with my colleagues to monitor the schemes in place and to identify practical actions to help businesses.