I am keenly aware that businesses are continuing to make massive sacrifices to protect their communities. 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/
At an early stage of this crisis, it became apparent that the impacts on economic activity were going to remain with us for much longer than originally anticipated. It also became clear that many businesses were incurring costs such as rent, rates, insurances, maintenance, security and other utilities, on an ongoing basis without the ability to generate the revenues required to meet these costs. Most of these costs are associated with the running costs of a premises, while for businesses without a fixed premises, fixed costs will likely be lower as a proportion of their total expenses.
I acknowledge that many businesses who do not trade from a commercial premises have been severely impacted, and for those individuals and businesses, Government has already moved to provide income supports in the form of the PUP, TWSS and EWSS which are payable regardless of sector and are available to employees, sole traders and proprietary directors. Where gaps have been identified, Government has moved quickly to fill those gaps and to ensure that nobody is left behind. Self-employed individuals can now earn up to €960 over an 8-week period and still remain eligible for the PUP. The Enterprise Support Grant, introduced by my colleague the Minister for Social Protection was a one-off grant introduced to reimburse certain non-rate paying businesses who had closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for re-opening costs up to a maximum of €1,000.
In the 2021 Budget, the Government allocated significant additional resources to Departments to provide help to different sectors. I would highlight the €395m provided to the Department of Transport and the €222m allocated to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
These additional monies will go towards helping businesses, including self-employed and those that are not rate paying businesses, such as through the €30m for private bus operators, €55m for a focused business scheme for strategic tourism businesses along with a €50m scheme for the live entertainment sector.
These are in addition to financial assistance and other schemes provided to businesses via Enterprise Ireland, InterTrade Ireland and Local Enterprise Offices.
The three main schemes, the CRSS, EWSS and PUP compare favourably with any other packages on offer in other countries. The Government is very much open to proposals as to how we can help further but the Government schemes are generally designed to help meet fixed costs that cannot be avoided and it is not possible to provide compensation for loss of personal income or profits.