I recognise the adverse impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on businesses right across the country, particularly those in the trade fairs and exhibitions industry. I know that employers, employees and the self-employed in this sector want to get back to work as quickly as possible and I support them in that ambition.
Unfortunately, in recent weeks there have been multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 across workplaces, households and in sports clubs with the result that it has not yet been possible for the Government to relax the restrictions on the number of people who may gather at indoor events. Instead, the Government, in light of public health advice, agreed to put in place a number of measures until September 13 in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Such action was necessary to protect the vulnerable in our communities, enable schools to reopen and support the resumption of health services.
In the interim, the July Stimulus package was introduced to help businesses to open, to help those that are already open to stay open, to get staff back to work and for those who cannot go back to their old jobs, there are new opportunities. These new measures are in addition to those already announced since the onset of the Global Pandemic. Significantly to support viable businesses and jobs, including new hires, we have extended the wage subsidy scheme, which run until the end of March 2021 and will be open to firms that do not currently participate and open to workers like seasonal workers who were not previously included. We are also giving companies extra assistance to reopen and stay open through an enhanced Restart grant available to more firms and more generous. We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the new €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. We have also announced a six month reduction in the VAT, going down from 23% to 21%, together with a range of additional measures designed to stimulate domestic demand. Businesses affected by Covid-19 will able e to delay payment of their PAYE and VAT debts in part of in full for a set period with no interest or penalties
Further information on these, along with the full list of actions within the July Stimulus and how to avail of them, can be found at www.gov.ie/jobsstimulus.
Representatives of the trade fair and events industry have submitted proposals to my colleague Minister of State Troy which outline how trade fairs and exhibitions could be conducted safely. These proposals have been shared with the Minister for Health and will be considered by the Government in the context of lifting restrictions into the future, as we seek to balance public health, economic and social aspects of living with COVID-19 in the short to medium term and try to bring some greater certainty so that society and business can plan forward.