The Government has announced a €100 million package of support for businesses affected by the latest round of public health restrictions.
Taken with the reinstatement of the full Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) rates earlier this month, it brings to €200 million the cost of State interventions announced since the coronavirus Omicron variant prompted a new round of restrictions on commercial and social life.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the measures meant supports available to firms would be “similar or better” to the level given at the height of lockdown.
Under the measures agreed by the Cabinet on Tuesday, the EWSS will also be reopened to businesses that were able to come off it in recent months.
Meanwhile, the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) will be paid to businesses who feel they cannot operate due to the new restrictions, even if they can do so under laws which allow, for example, the hospitality sector to stay open until 8pm.
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Those who do remain open will be able to claim the CRSS while earning up to 40 per cent of their weekly 2019 turnover, an improvement from the previous level of 25 per cent.
Firms will be able to re-enter the scheme if they meet certain turnover and entry criteria, said Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. He said that “broadly”, turnover for December 2021 and January 2022 should be down 30 per cent compared to the same period in 2019/2020.
This applies to firms that commenced operations on or before April 30th, 2019. Younger firms’ average monthly turnover for these two months must be down 30 per cent on the August-November period this year.
“What the Government is doing here is changing some important entry criteria for the employment wage subsidy scheme to make available this higher level of support in EWSS for a broader breadth of businesses in anticipation of the really difficult trading conditions that we know many businesses are facing into across December and January”.
‘Anxiety and despair’
Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said the fact that the Government was introducing revised supports just 12 days after restoring the full rate of EWSS “underlines the pace of recent developments in respect of the Omicron variant”.
“We are united in our view that they are necessary to protect public health. I fully appreciate that these new restrictions have caused an enormous amount of anxiety and despair for workers and business owners alike. Many will lose their job or their income as a result,” he said. “Notwithstanding the undoubted risks posed by Omicron, the outlook for our economy remains positive and we expect to see the economy rebound quickly and strongly next year.”
Mr Donohoe said he appreciated the “high level of anxiety” and the “huge fatigue” that exists all over society due to the impact of the pandemic.
“We are going to get to a better place in this pandemic due to our booster vaccination efforts, due to the way in which our country is following public health guidance. We will get to a point in 2022 which will be an awful lot better than where we are as we approach this Christmas.”