There is no doubt that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary health restrictions have had significant effects on the lives and livelihoods of our people, and the Government has put in place a comprehensive package to help businesses and workers during the pandemic. This includes the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low-cost loans, the deferral and warehousing of tax liabilities and the waiver of commercial rates. COVID-19 Business Loans up to €25,000 are available through Microfinance Ireland. The loans can range from €5,000 to €25,000.
Details of the wide range of COVID-19 schemes are available on my Department’s website at https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.
The introduction of specific measures for taxi and hackney businesses by my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, TD, were announced as part of Budget 2021. Minister Ryan is providing funding to the National Transport Authority to enable it to waive annual vehicle licence renewal fees for 2021. In addition, there is an allocation of €15 million to support up to 750 taxi and hackney drivers in scrapping older vehicles and replacing them with zero-emission capable electric alternatives. Up to €20,000 will be made available for eligible drivers switching to a new all-electric vehicle and up to €32,500 for those moving to a wheelchair accessible full electric vehicle.
My colleague, Heather Humphreys, TD, Minister for Social Protection, opened applications for the revamped Enterprise Support Grant of up to €1,000 for self-employed recipients when exiting the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. This grant is aimed at sole traders such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, taxi drivers and so on, who do not pay commercial rates. Taxi drivers in receipt of the PUP can earn up to €480/month and retain their payment.
The insurance sector has an important role to play in assisting their customers during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been recognised in the Programme for Government which sets out a range of commitments to reform the insurance sector in Ireland. These include addressing legal reforms; addressing fraud; increasing competition and enhancing the role of the PIAB. The Government has established a Sub-Group on Insurance Reform under the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment to drive implementation of these commitments. The Action Plan for Insurance Reform can be viewed on gov.ie.