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Wage subsidy extension, cheaper loans and rates waiver to be discussed at July stimulus meeting

The July Jobs Stimulus Plan will be unveiled in the next two weeks.

Image: Leah Farrell

THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY sub-Cabinet committee is meeting today to discuss the government’s much-heralded July stimulus package. 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the stimulus plan which aims to boost jobs and help businesses after the Covid-19 pandemic will be “radical and far-reaching”.

The July Jobs Stimulus Plan will be unveiled in the last week of this month.

Government ministers will today look at the options which will include an enhanced Restart grant for businesses, which currently offers a minimum payment of €2,000 and a maximum payment of €10,000.

The extension of commercial rates waivers for the rest of the year will also be considered today, as will the reduction in some business taxes.

There will also be a discussion today around the extension of the Wage Subsidy Scheme, with expectations that it will be extended beyond August, and perhaps to the end of the year for some sectors.

Access to cheaper loans is also on the cards for businesses, something that many TDs have called for. Criticism has been levelled at the government’s loan schemes due to the interest rates ranging from between 4.5%-5.5%.

TDs, such as Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy and Independent TD Denis Naughten, have called for loans to have interest rates as low to zero as possible. They also want the loans to be interest-free for at least one year.

Other ideas and incentives will also be considered today. It has been reported that discussions are underway around extending the TWSS to new hires that companies make in a bid to boost employment.

Actions that can be taken quickly and that will have an impact quickly are understood to be the government’s main focus.

The July stimulus will also allow for the warehousing of tax liabilities for businesses. The government’s MicroFinance Ireland loan scheme will also be scaled up.

Additional measures on how to support the sectors that have been most impacted by the public health emergency, such as hospitality, retail, entertainment, arts, and leisure sectors, will also be debated today.

Yesterday, Varadkar confirmed the July stimulus package will have a particular focus on sectors which employ large numbers of younger people, such as hospitality, retail, tourism and leisure, and perhaps construction as well.

“Radical action is required if we want unemployment to fall – youth unemployment and unemployment more generally,” he said.

The July stimulus will be followed up with more long-term actions in the National Economic Plan on Budget Day in October. 

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Today’s meeting takes place against the backdrop of comments by the chief executive of IDA Ireland Matt Shanahan who has warned that the outlook for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) over the next two years looks “very challenging” due to Covid-19. 

The IDA reports a 6% drop in new investments during the first six months of this year compared to the same time last year.

“At this point, existing FDI is looking, for the most part, resilient, but it is not immune; it is early days and a prolonged battle against the virus where sectors remain closed here or elsewhere could change this situation.

“Sectors are dealing with a supply-side and demand-side shock. The pandemic and the subsequent economic shock has impacted on sectors differently with some sectors impacted more than others,” said Shanahan.

Today’s meeting on the July stimulus is being chaired by Varadkar, the new Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and is being attended by all the key government players – Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, and Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath.

Minister for Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport Eamon Ryan, Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht Catherine Martin and Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys will also be in attendance.

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