Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that today is “a day of freedom” as society partially re-opens and people can travel freely anywhere on the island of Ireland.
Mr Varadkar said that 12,000 businesses are set to re-open this week and 100,000 people will go back to work.
He said that existing financial supports for business will remain in
place until the end of June and further clarity will be given late this
month on what will happen after that.
But Mr Varadkar said “this can’t go onto forever” and while Government supports will be phased out over time, any changes will be graduated and distinguish between those suffering the most.
The Tánaiste also said the wage subsidy scheme will stay in place for some time, but the levels at which a company qualifies for it may change.
He said any changes to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) would be made in a cautious manner as it will take time for self-employed people to build up cash reserves.
Speaking on Morning Ireland, Mr Varadkar said that the Government will continue to support the business community financially to give them a chance to bounce back after a very difficult year of trading.
He said that decisions around what commercial rates will apply for the third quarter and tax warehousing are being examined.
The VAT rate for the tourism and hospitality sector will stay at 9% until the end of the year and possibly into 2022, he added.
Minister Varadkar also said that while the Government thinks there will be an initial boom in consumer spending , that could trail off in autumn, when businesses could get into trouble.
He also said that the Government is looking to introduce a a fast-track system to re-structure business to help those in difficulty to survive.
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise Robert Troy is looking at how to introduce a new examinership process.
Leo Varadkar said this would avoid the High Court and help many businesses to survive through re-structuring.
“Retail was changing anyway, it was going online and the pandemic has accelerated that,” he stated.
He said there will be “less bricks and mortar”, adding that he has held discussions with the Mandate trade union about the need for training and transition funds for retail workers who may lose their jobs.
He said new uses must be found for some of the buildings left vacant in towns and cities.
Minister Varadkar said that a partial return to the office will happen in the autumn, along with inbound tourism from abroad.
But he said that “things will never be the same again” for many workplaces, adding that there needs to be more flexibility in how people work, with blended working.
Meanwhile, Marian O’Donnell, Media and Public Affairs Manager at Dublin Chamber of Commerce has called for greater clarity on the future of supports for businesses.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One Ms O’Donnell said businesses have been “reassured” that supports will be in place until the end of June and that there will be no “cliff-edge” in the level of support, as the country moves through the pandemic.
But she said they need clarity in the “medium to long term” to allow owners to plan for the future.
“It’s about reopening, but it is also about remaining open,” she said.
Ms O’Donnell said businesses in the hospitality sector will need greater support throughout the summer to allow outdoor business activity.