I am keenly aware that publicans are continuing to make massive sacrifices to protect their communities. In order to assist businesses to address the challenges posed by COVID-19 the Government has put in place a comprehensive package to help businesses and workers during the pandemic, including 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. Full details are available here at: https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/
Budget 2021 overall provides a significant package of tax and expenditure measures to build resilience and help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the Credit Guarantee Scheme. Changes were made to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the EWSS, increasing the top rate to €350 for those who were earning in excess of €400 per week. The EWSS is now extended by Government to end of June 2021, as is the rates waiver which will be of benefit to wet pubs.
My colleague, Minister Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Social Protection announced the doubling of the PUP threshold to €960 over an eight-week period. This will help people to restart their businesses when it is safe to do so and allow self-employed people to take on intermittent jobs. The PUP is now extended by Government to end of June 2021.
We have introduced a reduction in the 13.5% VAT rate to 9% until the end of 2021 which will benefit the hospitality sector, together with a range of additional public capital investment measures to support the domestic economy.
The Revenue Commissioners' COVID Restrictions Support Scheme offers a temporary sector-specific support to businesses forced to close or trade at significantly reduced levels by up to €5,000 per week. Th Government has extended the CRSS to end June which will be of continued direct benefit to wet pubs.
On 9th February last, I announced a new €60m Scheme, called the COVID-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) that is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes and to help with fixed costs. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75% or more in turnover will benefit, including those that commenced at the end of 2019 may be eligible.
We are committed to helping businesses respond to the economic challenges arising from the pandemic with a particular focus on firms that do not qualify for the weekly CRSS grant from the Revenue Commissioners or existing sectoral schemes in areas such as the arts, transport and tourism.
This new CBAS will help some businesses that are not eligible for existing grants, largely due to the fact that the premises they operate from have not been closed to the public. We estimate that this will help approximately 7,500 businesses. While the grant is modest it will be of substantial assistance to smaller businesses with some of their fixed costs like rent, utilities and security.
I will continue to work with my colleagues to identify practical actions and to regularly review supports available to assist businesses.