Today (13 March 2020), the Minister for Public, Expenditure Reform, Mr. Paschal Donohoe TD announced assurances given by the Central Bank and the Revenue Commissioners for those impacted by COVID-19.
Ministers Shane Ross and Brendan Griffin welcomed Minister Donohoe’s announcement as a first step.
Minsters Ross and Griffin have been engaging with the Taoiseach and Minister Donohoe over recent days to set out, and underline, the importance of concrete and immediate measures which would provide relief to tourism businesses, small, medium or large, whose very existence is threatened.
Minister Ross said: “Businesses in the tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors have gone from concern, to alarm to panic. It is absolutely essential that we as a Government, over the coming days, respond robustly and do whatever we can to save as many businesses and jobs as we can. Without some immediate response, the industry estimates that thousands of jobs could be lost within weeks. This is a desperate situation. I will continue to engage with the Taoiseach and Minister Donohoe to deliver for the Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure sectors. ”
Minister Griffin said: “I have been pressing the case for a rescue package for the Tourism sector since 25 February when I first wrote to Minister Donohoe. Tourism is the single biggest indigenous employer in this country, employing people in every town and village. In some rural areas, there are very few other places of employment. I, along with Minister Ross, am acutely aware of unprecedented challenges in the sector. We will continue to work with our Government colleagues to finalise specific recovery measures as soon as possible. We must save livelihoods as well as lives.”
Ministers Ross and Griffin have suggested payment holidays for businesses. Postponing payments to the Revenue, Banks and Local Authorities would act as a first step in stabilising those at risk until the crisis passes. Further urgent Government support for the sector has been sought to protect jobs and businesses.
Ministers Ross and Griffin have sought an immediate response and have put forward the following suggestions for consideration:
The deferment of certain taxes and charges to allow a window for the economy to recover. These could include; local authority rates and charges with zero arrears, water charges with zero arrears; Revenue liquor license fees and Tax/PRSI payment holidays to take effect immediately. In addition they would seek speedy access to low interest loans for tourism businesses both through DBEI schemes and through the banking system generally and the reduction of VAT rate on accommodation and food services to 0% immediately until the crisis passes, increasing to 9% for 12 months to enable industry to bounce back as quickly as possible.
It is likely that judgement will dictate the timing of recovery measures focussed particularly on the regions worst hit by the current crisis. At this time a commitment to future funding would be welcome. Minister Ross and Griffin have suggested that Tourism specific measures to kick-start a recovery would include; an increase in Fáilte Ireland funding (by €15 million) for a range of mitigation measures focused at boosting domestic demand; an increase in Tourism Ireland’s Tourism Marketing Fund by €25 million to support activity showing Ireland open again and a supplement to air carriers for lost business (e.g. payment of a subsidy similar to that being paid in China where carriers are paid per kilometre for empty seats) subject to State Aid considerations.