I propose to take Questions Nos. 288 and 297 together.
I am aware of the particular concerns and issues that arise for the aviation and tourism sectors arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the reality is that our whole economy and labour market have been rapidly transformed by this unprecedented shock and nearly all sectors have been negatively impacted either directly or indirectly.
The objective of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) is to support all employment and maintain the link between the employer and employee insofar as is possible. The EWSS has been a key component of the Government’s response to the continued Covid-19 crisis to support viable firms and encourage employment in the midst of these very challenging times. To date, subsidy payments of over €2.2 billion have been made and PRSI relief worth over €378m granted to over 47,600 employers in respect of over 537,100 employees.
I have been clear that there will be no cliff-edge to the EWSS. It is likely that continued support will be necessary out to the end of 2021 to help maintain viable businesses and employment and to provide businesses with certainty to the maximum extent possible. Decisions on the form of such support will take account of emerging circumstances and economic conditions.
As the Deputies will be aware from announcements made on Tuesday 23 February, it has been decided that the scheme is now to be extended until the end of June 2021.
With the agreement by Government on the revised plan, COVID-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021: The Path Ahead, a cautious and measured approach will be taken as we lay the foundations for the full recovery of social life, public services and the economy. It is therefore appropriate that a key business support such as the EWSS should remain in place at current levels of subsidy until the end of the second quarter of 2021.
As the revised plan is implemented, the scheme will play an important role in getting people back to work as public health restrictions are eased, thereby reducing the numbers dependant on social welfare payments over time, including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).
For those businesses who may need additional support at this time, I would draw attention to the comprehensive package of other business and employer supports that have been made available since the July Stimulus Plan and Budget 2021 - including the Covid Restriction Support Scheme (CRSS), the Credit Guarantee Scheme, the SBCI Working Capital Scheme, Sustaining Enterprise Fund, and the Covid-19 Business Loans Scheme.
The Government remains fully committed to supporting businesses and employers insofar as is possible at this time.