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Stay and Spend Scheme 'here to stay', say ministers

Sinn Féin has called for vouchers to be given to people to spend in restaurants.

THE GOVERNMENT’S STAY and Spend Scheme is here to stay, according to the Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath.

During yesterday’s Budget announcement, there was no mention of any tweaks to the scheme despite criticisms in recent days that it has become redundant after the entire country moved to Level 3 restrictions, which advises people to stay in their own county. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie yesterday, McGrath said the scheme will “stay as is for now”, stating that it is “a very new scheme”.

“We didn’t anticipate when it was announced that it would coincide with the imposition of public heath restrictions,” he said. 

“It wouldn’t be the right time to change it,” said McGrath.

The scheme is aimed at supporting the hospitality industry which has been so negatively affected by Covid-19.

The Stay and Spend scheme allows taxpayers claim a maximum of €125 back in tax credits on their spending in the hospitality sector from today until 30 April 2021.

To qualify for the maximum amount, a person must spend up to €625 (or €1,250 for married couples or civil partners) in restaurants, pubs, hotels, B&Bs and other qualifying businesses. 

People can claim the relief on the cost of accommodation and food, including soft drinks, but not including alcohol. But they must also have an income tax or USC liability against which the tax credit can be set. 

Sinn Féin’s alternative budget calls for vouchers to be given to families worth €200 and €100 per child as an alternative to the Stay and Spend Scheme.  

However, McGrath said: “We need to let the scheme breathe for when more normal times return.”

“It will be kept under review,” he said, but added there are no plans to change it.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the new Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) which provides support for businesses that have had to close as a result of Covid-19 restrictions at Level 3 or higher, would be extended beyond the current March date. 

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He said restaurants can access that scheme, adding that a voucher is no good to a restaurant if it can’t reopen. 

Donohoe said the scheme will be retained, and it another support that will coincide with the 9% VAT reduction annouced yesterday.

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