I propose to take Questions Nos. 516, 530, 544, 545, 546, 549, 550, 551, 552, 553, 554, 555, 556, 557, 558, 559, 560, 572 and 573 together.
As part of a €50 million suite of supports for the live entertainment sector, €14m has been made available for the Music and Entertainment Business Assistance Scheme (MEBAS) to make a contribution to the overheads of businesses that have been significantly negatively affected by COVID-19 and that do not qualify for other business supports. Under this scheme, self-employed businesses including musicians, singers, lighting and sound crew and audio equipment suppliers operating exclusively within the commercial live entertainment sector are eligible to apply. The application window for this scheme has recently been extended to 3 August.
It should be noted that this scheme is not a horizontal income support and grants are intended to provide a contribution towards businesses costs which arise even if the business is not operating. Therefore, details of fixed costs are required to determine eligibility. The scheme was developed in consultation with the sector and the eligibility criteria aims to strike an appropriate balance having regard to other available supports and the need to reach as many professional musicians and crew as possible. Grant recipients of MEBAS may also be published on the Department website, as is the case for other grants administered through this department.
Guidelines were made available prior to the scheme opening for applications to assist applicants in their preparation, along with a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions section. Applicants may also contact the MEBAS team directly with questions they may have in relation to their applications. My department has also provided an online application system for ease of access with clear guidance and instruction therein.
The scheme continues to be widely publicised on my department’s website on Gov.ie and throughout various social media channels, providing up to date information in relation to extensions to the application window. Several representative and stakeholder groups have also published information in relation to the scheme.
Applications for this support are processed in chronological order. Once submitted, applications are reviewed and further information or requests for clarification are issued to the applicant where necessary. Once all details have been provided, a decision is made in line with the published criteria and guidelines and the outcome is communicated to the applicant. If an application has been approved, the applicant will be provided with details of the grant amount and when payment can be expected. If an application has been unsuccessful, details are provided as to why the application was not approved for a grant, along with information regarding the appeals process. The payments process for grants approved as of last week will commence this week and this will see payments totalling almost €1.5 million made over the coming weeks.
Grants provided under this scheme are classed as De Minimis State Aid. There is a ceiling of €200,000 for all De Minimis aid regardless of the source, given to any one enterprise or group by any state agency or public body over the last 3 years. Such amounts of De Minimis Aid are regarded as falling outside the category of State aid that is banned by the EC Treaty and can be awarded without notification to or clearance from the European Commission.
The Economic Recovery Plan published on 1 June stated that Government recognises that as long as physical distancing remains a public health requirement, further supports may be needed for this sector. Officials have gained valuable insights from this scheme and will apply these learnings when considering further support measures, including those which have recently emerged from engagement with the sector and with stakeholders. Details of further measures will be announced in due course.
While it was difficult to determine how many applications would be submitted for this scheme, 589 applications were submitted by 7 July with a further 109 submitted by 21 July. 714 applications have been received to date with 475 approved. 159 applications have been unsuccessful, with the remaining applications currently being processed or awaiting further information from the applicant.