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 Header Item Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No. 2) Bill 2020: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No. 2) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 996 No. 2
Unrevised

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  6 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell] That is important and would be a practical measure to assist those outside the greater Dublin area.

The Microfinance Ireland loan scheme has been a great success to date. However, the Minister is probably aware at this point that it is not accepting any new applications. Many businesses want to apply for loans and to get their businesses back up and running. I ask that the extra funding that will be made available to Microfinance Ireland be expedited. It would have a very practical import. I also welcome the fact that the restart grant scheme has been significantly enhanced. That is important for businesses.

The July stimulus package is to be welcomed. I expect it will feed into the national economic plan in the next budget. I always felt that one of the successes of the Covid pandemic from the point of view of Government was that it was very flexible in regard to the arrangements that needed to be tweaked. The employment subsidy scheme was tweaked on a number of occasions. It works very well.

We need to tweak other schemes to ensure that proprietary directors can be included. That would make an enormous difference to businesses. There is an anomaly whereby employees are in receipt of the WSS but two, three or more proprietary directors cannot claim Covid payments because their company has had to cease operation. It is an anomaly that needs to be corrected.

We need to get the staycation app up and running. Decentralisation needs to be progressed. There is a need for a White Paper policy statement on that.

If the Minister did nothing more but instruct Microfinance Ireland to continue to accept loan applications so that they can be assessed until such time as extra funding is put in place to allow payouts, that would be welcome. There is no reason we should lose time. It is something about which I feel very strongly.

This Bill is about getting people back into employment. Businesses face very challenging times. I commend the Irish people and, more particularly, Irish businesses and employees on what they have come through. The July stimulus will provide them with a significant degree of support and I compliment the Government on its work to date. I will continue to work with it. Anything I have put forward is done with the aim of improving what are the very good schemes that are in place and ensuring they work to the maximum extent possible to keep people in employment and to get them back into work.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Alan Farrell): Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell We do not have time for the Minister to make closing remarks on Second Stage. I apologise.

Deputy Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell Would it be possible to allow the Minister to provide a brief summation?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Alan Farrell): Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell I am very sorry. The slot was due to conclude at about 5.56 p.m., which I was not aware of until the last minute. I apologise to the Minister and Deputy.

  Question put and agreed to.

Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No. 2) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages

SECTION 1

  Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe Will I make a comment on each section as we move through the Bill? I am happy to do so.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Alan Farrell): Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell It is in the hands of the Members present. There are a number of amendments. If the Minister wants to make a statement on section 1, there is no amendment.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe Section 1 is a definitions section.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I would be-----

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I am glad I-----

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I would be glad if the Minister did respond to some of the points raised on Second Stage.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Alan Farrell): Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell Unfortunately, as I have already stated that will not be possible. Time was not allowed for that and it was not brought to my attention, I regret to say, until it was too late. I had assumed the slot finished at 7 p.m., in which case there would have been plenty of time for everybody to make a contribution. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are a number of amendments which I think-----

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Can we speak on the section?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Alan Farrell): Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell Yes.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Can we turn on the microphones?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Alan Farrell): Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell That is not in my control.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett We can go section by section.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Alan Farrell): Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell Section by section. Okay.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett That is how it works.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Alan Farrell): Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell Section 1 has already been introduced. Does the Deputy wish to make a contribution?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I want to speak on the section.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Alan Farrell): Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell The Deputy may do so.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I hope the Minister will respond on the section. Section 1 deals with definitions. The problem with one definition is that it refers to employers only in terms of the wage subsidy scheme, WSS. As I pointed out on Second Stage, many people need an income subsidy but they are not employers or they are their own employer, that is, they are self-employed or lone traders. This group, to put it bluntly, has been left hung out to dry in the July stimulus. They should get the benefit of an income subsidy.

I would like the Minister and Government to explain why this is happening. Some sectors have been decimated by public health measures that have protected us all, and people's willingness to adhere to them. Why are employees now being betrayed - there is no other way to describe it - by having their PUP payments cut without being offered an alternative support until their sector recovers? The Government owes these people an explanation. They are very angry.

I spoke to Mary Coughlan on the telephone. She was quite happy for me to cite her as an example. Her case is typical of many self-employed artists. They have had their PUP payments cut from €350 to €203. She pointed out that pre-Covid she earned €20,000 a year, which is a modest income. As a result of Covid and the public health measures, she has had 35 concerts cancelled in Britain, Norway, Finland and elsewhere. She has no idea when there will be any substantial recovery in the gigs available to her. This is all because of public health measures. We need to protect our society, but her livelihood is gone.

Her story is repeated by dozens of people working in the sector. Lighting designers and self-employed musicians were earning €25,000 or €30,000 a year. Their payments have been cut to €203 despite the fact that they were earning in excess of €200 a week because of the way income for the self-employed is reckoned by Revenue. I could go through a long list of those affected, but I do not have time to mention them all.

Many musicians, including Mary, pointed out to me that they regularly do gigs for Pieta House, women's refuges and support various good causes for free on national television.


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