I am keenly highly aware that those businesses in the hospitality sector are making a massive sacrifice to protect their communities and I am committed to ensuring that the Government will offer as much assistance and support as possible. On Friday 9 October last I co-Chaired the first meeting of the Government's new Hospitality and Tourism Forum with my ministerial colleague, Catherine Martin T.D.
On 28th August 2020, the Government announced a further €16m support package to help pubs, bars and nightclubs, recognising the economic impact of Covid-19 on their businesses and to assist planning and adaptation for their re-opening. This package contained measures including:
- Restart Grant Plus 40% Top Up: Those businesses remaining closed and planning their re-opening can now receive a minimum of €5,600 and a maximum of €35,000 under the Restart Grant Plus. This can be used to help additional expense and adaptations associated with re-opening when the time comes.
- Waiver of court fees and associated excise and stamp duties relating to the renewal of pub and other liquor licences in 2020.
- Waiver of excise duty on on-trade liquor licences on renewal in 2020.
These measures have been implemented in addition to the existing Restart Grant Plus, Tourism Adaptation Fund, the wage subsidy scheme, commercial rates waiver, liquidity supports and tax measures (such as warehousing of tax debt and reduction in VAT).
The Restart Grant Plus provides direct grant aid to businesses with up to 250 employees to help them with the costs associated with reopening and re-employing workers following COVID-19 closures. Top-ups were previously made available for eligible businesses in Kildare, Laois, Offaly, Dublin and Donegal in respect of a further period of restrictions, for ‘wet’ pubs, bars and nightclubs nationwide that re-opened on 21 September, and for ‘wet’ pubs, bars and nightclubs in Dublin that remain closed.
Businesses in Dublin and Donegal were generally eligible for a grant top-up due to the restrictions imposed at that time. Donegal pubs remained partially open, so the pubs were entitled to an additional top-up in recognition of the restrictions imposed. Meanwhile, Dublin pubs that were forced to remain closed were entitled to a further enhanced top-up.
As the Deputy will be aware, on 6th October 2020 all parts of the country moved to Level Three of the Government’s Framework for Restrictive Measures for a period of three weeks.
I understand that these restrictions have a significant impact on businesses and employment around the country. In recognition of the impact of these restrictions on businesses, a 30% top-up to the Restart Plus grant is being provided to help support those affected through the three-week period. In addition, in recognising that Level 3 has been extended in Dublin and Donegal beyond the three-week period, businesses in these counties are eligible for a further top-up in addition to those made available in September. Businesses in the hospitality sector and other vulnerable sectors who have previously benefited from the Restart Grant are eligible to re-apply for this top-up.
These supports are supplementary to the wide range of existing loan and voucher schemes available to assist businesses affected by COVID-19 provided through the July Jobs Stimulus and other Government initiatives.
In addition to the measures announced in Budget 2021, the Deputy will recall that on 23 July last we announced the July Stimulus Package, a substantial financial package to stimulate our economy worth more than €5 billion, with an additional €2 billion in loan guarantees which is bigger in scale than most budgets and is being deployed at speed. The July Stimulus package was designed to help businesses to open, to help those 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.
The range of measures in place to assist businesses include direct grants to support viable businesses and jobs, including new hire. We have extended the wage subsidy scheme, which will 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 we are giving companies extra assistance through an enhanced Restart Plus grant and reductions in the rate of VAT. From 1st September, the six-month reduction in the VAT came into effect, going down from 23% to 21%.
We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the new €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. I announced the reopening of MFI lending on 31st August and I launched the €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme on 7th September.
Budget 2021, together with the measures we announced as part of the July Stimulus Package, provides a substantial financial package to stimulate our economy and to help businesses to open, to help those 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.