State abandons plan to rejig Covid Restrictions Support Scheme

Too difficult to amend schemes for business ahead of Christmas period, Government says

The end date of the CRSS had been pushed out to the end of January to align with the requirement for nightclubs and discos to remain closed

The end date of the CRSS had been pushed out to the end of January to align with the requirement for nightclubs and discos to remain closed

 

The Government has jettisoned plans to modify its Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) for businesses and is instead to extend both it and the enhanced rates for the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said an analysis by his department on adjusting the CRSS showed it would be “administratively very complex and potentially costly to actually get the scheme in place and to get it operational ahead of the Christmas period”.

“I recognise in particular that, for the hospitality sector, speed is vital now in trying to meet their needs as we work our way through a trading period that is so important in so many restaurants and hotels – they need additional support and they need it now,” he said.

“Therefore I will be recommending to Government that we maintain the enhanced EWSS subsidies for a further two-month period across December and January. This is a quicker way of responding to the need of how we support businesses in the immediate term.”

The end date of the CRSS has also been pushed out to the end of January to align it with the requirement for nightclubs and discos to remain closed over the holiday period.

Mr Donohoe said the decision to extend the enhanced rates of EWSS for December and January would “give certainty to businesses when they need it most”. The wage subsidy scheme is open to businesses that have suffered a 30 per cent fall in revenue.

Payments

He said Revenue had advised him that the changes would be effective by Monday. Employers who submit their claim will receive their payment within about two days of submitting it. Back payments will be dealt with by the end of next week.

From February, the original two-rate structure of €203 per week and €151.50 per week will apply under the EWSS. For March and April 2022, the flat rate subsidy will fall to €100 per week with the scheme set to end on April 30th.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said that, as part of the measures, the Government is extending the local authority commercial rates waiver to the end of March 2022 for the hospitality, entertainment events and tourism sectors at a cost of more than €62 million.

Mr Donohoe said he appreciated the difficulty many businesses had been presented with in recent weeks, given the evolving situation with Covid-19 and recent decisions taken regarding public-health restrictions.

“The Government and I have been clear that there will be no cliff edge to supports for employers but we have also been clear that the EWSS cannot run indefinitely, nor is it sustainable to continue with the enhanced rates for a prolonged period of time given the very substantial costs to the exchequer,” he said. To date the overall cost of the EWSS had been €6.5 billion, he said.

Ibec welcome

Ibec welcomed the two-month extension for the EWSS at full rates, with its chief executive, Danny McCoy, saying the announcement would bring “much-needed relief to business”.

He also welcomed the news that the CRSS and the commercial rates waiver are to be extended.

“While challenges undoubtedly remain, these supports will each be important in keeping many businesses afloat, particularly those in the ‘experience economy’, for whom the traditional revenue-generating festive period has been severely disrupted,” he said.

“The supports will help those businesses to remain open and continue to trade safely over the coming period,” Mr McCoy added.