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Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 22 June 2021

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Ceisteanna (63)

Steven Matthews

Ceist:

63. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the number of successful and unsuccessful applications for the music and entertainment business assistance scheme to date; if her attention has been drawn to the concerns of sectoral interests regarding the qualifying criteria for the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33214/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (12 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Tourism)

The music and entertainment business assistance scheme, MEBAS, was launched recently. I know the Minister and her officials put a lot of time and effort into it and met with a broad range of people involved in the music and entertainment sector. The Oireachtas committee meets regularly with them as well. At our most recent meeting, they expressed concern about some of the complexity involved in applying for the scheme and some of the qualifying criteria. What has the success rate been like? Have there been many applications and how would the Minister judge the success of the scheme so far?

As part of a €50 million suite of supports for the live entertainment sector, the music and entertainment business assistance scheme opened for applications on 9 June. This scheme aims to support businesses operating solely in the live entertainment sector that do not qualify for other business supports and have been significantly impacted by Covid restrictions. This scheme will see support offered by way of three levels of once-off, flat payments: €2,500 for businesses with a VAT-exclusive turnover of between €20,000 and €50,000 with minimum business costs of €3,000 incurred from 1 April 2020 to 31 May 2021; €4,000 for businesses with a VAT-exclusive turnover of between €50,001 and €100,000 with minimum business costs of €6,000 from 1 April 2020 to 31 May 2021; and €5,000 for businesses with VAT-exclusive turnover in excess of €100,000 with minimum business costs of €7,500 from 1 April 2020 to 31 May 2021.

Businesses, whether sole traders, partnerships or incorporated entities operating exclusively within the live entertainment sector may apply. Businesses of musicians and singers of all genres are eligible to apply, as are sound engineers, lighting engineers, audio engineers, stage managers, stage technicians, sound and lighting equipment suppliers, live-streaming equipment suppliers and full-time disc jockeys. The scheme was designed to reach out and provide support for those who have not been supported to date.

It should be noted that this scheme is not a horizontal income support and grants are intended to provide a contribution towards business costs. The scheme was developed in consultation with the sector and the eligibility criteria aim to strike an appropriate balance, having regard to other available supports and the need to reach as many professional musicians and crew as possible. To date, just over 300 applications have been submitted for the scheme. Of these, approximately 50 have been approved and three have been unsuccessful. All details in respect of this scheme, including guidelines and the MEBAS application portal, can be accessed on my Department's website.

I thank the Minister for the update. If I read the reply correctly, only three of 300 applications have been refused, which is a refusal rate of only 1%. That would speak to the scheme having some success.

I note that the Minister mentioned the other scheme that was launched recently as well, the €25 million live performance support scheme, which will provide an opportunity for all those involved in the sectors mentioned to get back to work in some shape or form.

What is apparent to me from the meetings I have had with these groups is the urge and desire just to get back out there and entertain and not to have to depend on supports and not to have to go through the process to get those supports. What measures can we take to try to get as many people back entertaining as possible? I know the local authorities have funding for outdoor entertainment locations in towns and villages. Can we do more in that regard?

I thank the Deputy and I assure him I am doing everything I possibly can. I come from this background myself and I am very much aware of the need not just for us to hear and enjoy music but for these people to get back to work. It is not just the musicians but the technicians, the crew and everyone behind the scenes. That is one of the lessons that has been learned because a light has been shone on those who work behind the scenes and how they need to be supported.

The recent development has been the securing of the number one recommendation of the arts and culture recovery task force in that I have received agreement from my coalition partners and Cabinet agreement to pilot the basic income guarantee. We have to look to the future and place value on artists by looking at how we can support them beyond Covid. The pilot events I am rolling out at present in music are all about establishing that safe pathway back to work. As the Deputy knows, I today announced an event for 3 July, where 3,500 fans will attend, 500 of whom will be healthcare workers, and which will involve antigen testing and reduced social distancing.

I thank the Minister, who raises an important point. Often, when we go to see a show or we go to be entertained, we see who is standing on the stage but we have to recognise that many more people are operating front of house, backstage, in production, in decor and in everything else it has taken to get that entertainer on the stage. It is important the schemes recognise them as well.

In terms of outdoor entertainment, we have to look at places like pubs that have large beer garden spaces that are carefully managed and carefully controlled, so we can get as many of these people who are involved in entertainment, lighting, production and everything that goes with that operating as best we can. I note that the live performance support scheme has a good range, from the small independent venues right up to the bigger events we all enjoy during the summer. I thank the Minister.

I thank the Deputy. The live performance support scheme is unprecedented. It shows that a sector that never had to reach out before had to reach out, and we responded with €50 million in supports, including €25 million in the live performance support scheme that was announced last week. That will supply thousands of hours of work to thousands of performers and technical staff.

On the Deputy’s query in regard to when we will get singers outdoors at those licensed premises, the Deputy may be aware that I have raised with my Cabinet colleagues that those regulations be reviewed because I want to get them performing again. As many Members have said in the House, and I firmly believe it, the best support we can give to our musicians is to get them back performing again, and that is my goal.

I believe Deputy Matthews is taking Question No. 64.

I was not made aware of that.

Questions Nos. 64 and 65 replied to with Written Answers.

I call Deputy Alan Farrell on Question No. 67, which is being taken with Question No. 77 in the name of Deputy Dillon.

The Acting Chairman's question, Question No. 66, is due to be taken before my question, if he wishes to take it now.

I will surely be reached. The Deputies should proceed.

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