I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 to 280, inclusive, together.
The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) operated from 26 March 2020 to 31 August 2020 and supported over 66,000 employers in respect of almost 664,000 employees that were negatively impacted by the necessary Covid-19 related restrictions, at a cost to the Exchequer of over €2.8 billion.
The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) replaced the TWSS from 1 September 2020 as the Government’s focus has shifted from an employee income support paid via the employer that maintained the existing employee/employer relationship insofar as was possible, to a direct employer subsidy to help support viable firms and encourage employment, including prospective employment of new hires and seasonal workers. Its design reflects the changing environment around the COVID-19 pandemic which has shifted from crisis mode to one of living alongside the virus, in line with the recently announced Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19.
I am advised by Revenue that, as of 25 September 2020, there were 36,746 employers registered for the EWSS which is considered a strong level of participation so far and, notably, over 82% of the employers availing of the TWSS when it finished at the end of August.
I am aware of the concerns that have been raised regarding the pace of recovery for some sectors of the economy and that it has been suggested that the application of the EWSS should be delineated on the basis of explicit sectoral qualification criteria. However, I would note that the reality of COVID-19 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 EWSS has therefore been deliberately designed as an economy wide measure that is open to all sectors as was the case for the TWSS before it. The availability of the support by reference to a turnover test means that the scheme can be applied across the whole economy while at the same time remain targeted at employers who are considered to be most in need of support, including the sectors mentioned by the Deputy.
It is important to emphasise that the adaptation from the TWSS to the levels of support in the EWSS will allow employers to rely on the continuation of support over a longer period of up to 8 months while also ensuring such support is sustainable and affordable.
I will continue to closely monitor the administration of the EWSS as well as the uptake and utilisation of this important economy-wide employment measure in the weeks and months ahead to with a view to ensuring that it achieves its objective of supporting viable enterprises and employers. In fact, the relevant legislation obliges me to monitor and superintend the administration of the scheme and empowers me to make certain adjustments across the whole scheme where I determine that these are necessary.
For those businesses who need further support, there are a number of options open to them – including State backed loans which may be repaid using EWSS funds as well as grants. Particular attention is drawn to the comprehensive package of business and employer supports that have been made available as part of the July Stimulus Plan - including the Credit Guarantee Scheme, the SBCI Working Capital Scheme, Sustaining Enterprise Fund, and the Covid-19 Business Loans Scheme.
Finally, in the case of the sectors highlighted by the Deputy, I would note that my colleague the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, Ms. Catherine Martin T.D., has recently announced the establishment and membership of the Arts and Culture Recovery Task Force and funding for a Live Performance and Music Industry Support Package.
Any other additional income supports are a matter for the Department of Social Protection.