A Cork business representative has welcomed the Government announcement of additional supports for the sector but said that it is essential they are provided to businesses as soon as possible.
The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar TD announced €160m for measures to help businesses during the pandemic which were agreed by cabinet on Tuesday.
As part of the supports, a new €60m Scheme, called the Covid-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) will be developed to target businesses currently ineligible for the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) or other sector specific grants. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75 per cent or more in turnover are expected to benefit from this scheme.
The Government also approved an additional €90m for the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, which offers funding of up to €800,000, with €200,000 or 50 per cent in non-repayable grants to eligible manufacturing and internationally traded services companies.
In addition, €10m will be allocated to the Covid-19 Products Scheme which will help companies researching or manufacturing PPE, sanitisers, tests and other medicinal products and equipment that are utilised in the fight against Covid-19.
Speaking on the announcement, the Tánaiste said that the supports aim to help with the economic challenges posed by the pandemic, with a particular focus on those who do not qualify for existing schemes, such as those in the arts, tourism and transport.
“The Government has sought to help as many businesses as possible through wage subsidies and the many different grant and loan schemes we have put in place.
“A new Scheme, the CBAS, will help some businesses that aren’t eligible for existing grants, largely due to the fact that the premises they operate from have not been closed to the public.”
He said that it is expected that the scheme will benefit approximately 7,500 businesses and while the grant is “modest”, it will be of “substantial assistance” to smaller businesses with fixed costs such as rent.
Eoin O’Sullivan, president of the Cork Business Association welcomed the announcement of additional supports but said that it is essential they are provided to businesses as soon as possible.
“It’s positive to see that there’s a new suite of supports for businesses but it is essential that we get them out to businesses as soon as possible and not to wait last minute when they start opening the likes of non-essential retail and many other businesses,” he said.
“The new supports are welcomed but it’s essential that we get them out to business owners in a timely fashion,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar told a press conference yesterday that, while it is hoped society and the economy open over the coming weeks, “certain sectors” may not open fully “for a very long time”.
When asked about the reopening of personal services such as hairdressers, he said that it would be "much later" than March 5th before they would reopen.
Amy Michelle Shanahan, who owns salon Amy Michelle on High Street, Turners Cross, said she expected that they wouldn’t be opening up at the start of March.
"I presumed it would be like the last lockdown, retail would open first and then personal services after.
"It was in three-week stages last time, hopefully, it will be a bit quicker this time. I’m hoping it won’t be as long as last year’s lockdown.
"I’m on the fence about it, I agree the numbers are too high at the moment, but businesses need to survive and a four-month lockdown is very difficult," she said.
The Cork hairdresser said she is hopeful this is the last lockdown.
"I’m trying to keep motivated, I get up every morning and go for a big walk, I’m doing online courses to stay busy, I’m hopeful this is the last lockdown with the vaccine being rolled out. Once the vulnerable and elderly are vaccinated, I know there will still be restrictions and PPE but I’m fingers crossed this is the last lockdown."