Section 28B of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 provides for the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) which is an economy-wide enterprise support for eligible businesses. EWSS provides a flat-rate subsidy to qualifying employers, based on the number of qualifying employees on the payroll.
As an economy-wide support, the EWSS has played a central role in supporting businesses, encouraging employment and helping to maintain the link between employers and employees since July 2020. To date (9 December 2021), payments of over €5.73 billion and PRSI credit of over €902 million have been granted to 51,700 employers in respect of some 696,900 workers.
The Finance (Covid-19 and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2021, signed into law on 19 July, provided for the extension of EWSS to 31 December 2021. It also provided that for employers to be eligible for the EWSS, they must be able to demonstrate that their business will experience a 30% reduction in turnover or customer orders for the calendar year 2021 compared to the calendar year 2019 and that this disruption to normal business is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of my Budget Day announcement I outlined that the EWSS will remain in place in a graduated form until 30 April 2022. While the scheme will be closed to new employers from 1 January 2022, eligible employers who are availing of EWSS at 31 December 2021 will continue to be supported by the scheme, if they so choose, until 30 April 2022. Therefore, in relation to the Deputy’s question, if hospitality businesses were eligible in December 2021, remain registered for EWSS and received EWSS payments, they will continue to qualify for the EWSS supports in January 2022. There is also the legislative requirement that employers must have a tax clearance certificate to be eligible to join the EWSS and, must continue to meet the requirements for tax clearance for the duration of the scheme.
The EWSS legislation requires that immediately at the end of each month, from the introduction of the scheme in August 2020 onwards, each employer availing of the scheme must carry out a self-review of its business circumstances and if it is manifest to the employer that it no longer meets the eligibility test for qualification for the scheme, then the employer must immediately cease claiming wage subsidy payments.
To assist employers in conducting a monthly review of its continuing eligibility for the scheme, Revenue have provided an EWSS Eligibility Review Form through its Revenue Online Service (ROS). From 21 July 2021, completing and submitting an EWSS Eligibility Review Form to Revenue has been necessary to avail of EWSS supports, with details of an employer’s monthly eligibility review check to be submitted by the 15th of the following month. For EWSS claims in 2022, the eligibility review undertaken on the last day of December 2021 will need to be completed and submitted to Revenue by 15 January 2022.
Finally, as announced on 9 December last, it has been decided to extend the enhanced rates of EWSS for the months of December 2021 and January 2022 to give certainty to businesses when they need it most and to help maintain the link between employers and employees in sectors adversely affected by the most recent public health restrictions. From 1 February 2022, the original two-rate structure of €203 per week and €151.50 per week will apply; for March and April 2022, a flat rate subsidy of €100 per week will apply and the scheme will end on 30 April 2022. These changes are being provided for in Finance Bill 2021.
The Government and I have been clear that there will be no cliff edge to supports for employers but we have also been clear that the EWSS cannot run indefinitely, nor is it sustainable to continue with the enhanced rates for a prolonged period of time given the very substantial costs to the Exchequer.
At the same time, as has been the case since the start of the pandemic, the Government will continue to monitor developments closely.