One of the earliest priorities for Minister O'Brien and I was to secure exchequer funding to support a waiver of commercial rates for businesses impacted by the pandemic, while simultaneously supporting local authorities.
€900m was allocated by Government to fund the cost of a rates waiver from 27 March to 27 December 2020. This meant that for eligible businesses, such as those in the hospitality sector, their commercial rates were funded by Government for nine months of 2020. This was an unprecedented measure, which offered support to businesses and financial certainty to local authorities. As with all local charges, the invoicing and collection of the remaining three months of commercial rates for 2020, is a matter for the local authority concerned to manage in the light of prevailing local circumstances and in accordance with normal collection procedures. In practice, it is understood that most local authorities promote the use of direct debit payment facilities and work with businesses to put in place flexible payment options that reflect capacity to pay. Any business with concerns in that regard may wish to engage directly with the rates department of the relevant local authority.
In order to continue supporting businesses and other ratepayers, and in recognition of the ongoing impacts of COVID 19 and the associated public health restrictions, the Government recently announced that a more targeted commercial rates waiver will be applied in the first quarter of 2021 to businesses most seriously affected by ongoing restrictions. €160 million has been allocated to meet the cost of this waiver and details were issued to local authorities on 27 January 2021. Automatic eligibility is extended to retail, hospitality including hotels, pubs and restaurants, leisure and entertainment, personal services such as hairdressers and barbers, health services and various other categories. Businesses in other sectors may engage directly with their local authorities if they can demonstrate serious financial impact and may also qualify for this waiver.
As has been the case since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, my Department will continue to engage with the local government sector and with individual local authorities on the financial impacts of the pandemic. As with all public health measures and associated supports, the waiver of commercial rates will be kept under review.
Commercial rates are separate and distinct from the Restart Grant introduced by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment during 2020.