Belfast Chamber pleads for financial support for firms impacted by Executive decisions
Belfast Chamber has called on the Northern Ireland Executive to urgently consider and quickly introduce financial support to assist businesses who will incur additional costs as they implement the ‘Covid passport’ scheme.
Commenting, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton, said: “With the Executive finally publishing the regulations to introduce ‘Covid passports’ in Northern Ireland, Ministers must immediately turn their attention to the need to compensate the affected businesses for the cost they will now inevitably incur as they implement the certification scheme.
“Hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses have had an absolutely torrid time over the past 20 months.
“They are only now starting to get going again yet here they are, about to be hit by more Executive enforced measures that will cost them money they can ill afford.
“Without adequate financial support in place quickly, jobs will be in jeopardy.
“Indeed, many businesses are already seeing cancellations of bookings so this, and speculation about closures and lockdowns, is already having a negative effect on trade.
“Much was said during the debate surrounding ‘Covid passports’. Little though was spoken about how the impacted businesses will be able to pay for it or what support Stormont could offer.
“That needs to change. How on earth does the Executive think a business that restrictions closed for months on end, will be able to afford to pay for staff to scan people’s ‘Covid passports’?”
Pleading with the Executive, he added: “Ministers must be aware of the pressures businesses are under, including a shortage of staff in the sectors who will have to implement this scheme, but there is no package of financial support on offer.
“That is simply unacceptable.
“Belfast Chamber is pleading with Ministers that, if their ‘Covid passport’ scheme is endorsed by the Assembly and it comes into full effect in early December, they must find a way to compensate businesses so that they can continue to trade and keep people in employment.
“And support for hard hit sectors shouldn’t stop there either.
“The beginning of the new rates year is fast approaching and the two years rates holiday will end.
“It is clear that with customer facing businesses slowly recovering, a further increase in VAT for hospitality in the offing, the usual quieter January period looming and with them still being impacted by Executive restrictions, rates support will need to continue.
“Going overnight from no rates bill to a full bill could prove to be a tipping point for many businesses.
“The Executive must follow the Chancellor’s example and continue rates support for the sectors bearing the brunt of the pandemic and avoid undoing the good work of their various grants, the furlough scheme and other efforts to keep businesses going”.
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