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.
I am aware that Revenue is carrying out compliance checks on the 66,000 employers who participated in the TWSS scheme to ensure they were eligible to receive the funds and crucially, that the supports were correctly paid to their employees. Revenue has advised me that compliance checks have been completed in respect of more than 23,000 employers to date representing almost 67% of employees that were supported by the scheme. The checks have confirmed high levels of compliance with the terms of the scheme by most employers. However, a relatively small number of cases have been identified as needing closer examination and these enquiries are ongoing. Where issues are identified, Revenue expands the examination to include the employer’s overall tax situation.
Regarding EWSS, Revenue has advised me that its current focus is to assist eligible employers with the registration process and to provide them with any support they might need in claiming their entitlements under the scheme. As of 25 September, some 36,746 employers have successfully registered for the scheme and the intention is that payments in respect of September will be made in mid-October. Revenue has also advised me that it has very recently made EWSS payments for July and August 2020 to almost 2,700 employers in respect of newly hired or seasonal staff that were not previously included in the TWSS. EWSS related compliance checks will start once the scheme is fully operational.
Regarding publication of TWSS recipients, Section 28 of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 provides that the names and addresses of all employers to whom a subsidy payment was made will be published by Revenue. However, the names of employers who registered for the TWSS but did not subsequently operate the scheme and did not receive any payments will not be published. Also, the details of employers who may have unintentionally applied for and received payments, or who sought to leave the scheme for other legitimate commercial reasons, will not be published providing the amounts received are repaid and all associated tax and PRSI issues are fully addressed. Revenue has advised me that the list of employers that received TWSS payments will be published as soon as possible once these employer related adjustments are finalised.
Regarding the EWSS, section 28B of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 provides that the names and addresses of all employers to whom a payment is made during the period July to December 2020, will be published by Revenue as soon as is practicable in January 2021. Publication of employers who receive a payment between January and March 2021, will be published as soon as practicable in April 2021.
The relevant legislation makes no provision for the publication of individual employees that benefited from either TWSS or EWSS payments.
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. I can also reassure the Deputy that as part of the policy development process relating to supports for business and employment retention, my Department and I take into account similar schemes in operation in other jurisdictions, including the specific one he mentions.
On the question of effective oversight and implementation of taxpayer funded support to businesses via the employment wage subsidy scheme, I would draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that, under section 28A(4) of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020, as amended, I am obliged, as Minister for Finance, to monitor and superintend the administration of the wage subsidy scheme.
I would also point out that, as was the case with the TWSS, I will actively take into account the views of all stakeholders, including the social partners, as I seek to ensure that the EWSS remains an effective instrument in support of business and employment through the Covid-19 crisis.