Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber. Photo: Darragh Kane

Speed of recovery to be determined by supports

Covid supports for businesses need to be continued beyond June according to Cork Chamber and the deepening crisis of the aviation sector needs to be addressed too.

Cork Chamber pointed out that for the last 14 months, some of the worst Covid-affected businesses are SMEs operating intourism, hospitality, leisure, aviation, retail and culture. While the Covid-19 business supports have been pivotal to supporting the economy, continued action is needed to safeguard the most vulnerable sectors.

Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber commented: “Despite the recent reopening of retail, personal services and cultural businesses, and plans for elements of leisure and hospitality, business is not yet in a position to plan ahead with any certainty. Covid business supports have been a lifeline to many but their extension far beyond June will be essential as it is clear the pandemic’s impact will extend beyond this date.”

“It is essential that Government extends the Wage Subsidy Scheme and waiver on commercial rates for vulnerable sectors in tourism, hospitality and events to the end of 2021. This will give the worst affected businesses the ability to plan for the months ahead, to re-employ staff with reasonable confidence and to contribute to economic and social stability.”

The aviation sector has been hugely affected by the pandemic and the recent Aer Lingus news saw Cork Chamber calling for “substantial support for regional airports well into 2022”.

“The news this week that Aer Lingus is to close its base at Shannon and temporarily close at Cork is a clear indicator of the pressure on aviation. This is very distressing news for the employees, and it is a negative development for the region's direct connectivity to the US, Europe and beyond.

“If we are to protect our reputation as a destination for business, Government must provide substantial support for regional airports well into 2022. These are issues that affect the whole of the region and need a robust response from Government,” he said.

Cork Chamber along with the national network of Chambers in Ireland has also called on Government for the reintroduction of a Redundancy Rebate Scheme for sole traders and SMEs and the enactment of the Summary Rescue Process for SMEs. The extension of the debt warehousing scheme, the Chamber said, would also be of value to the affected businesses, many of whom have been ineligible for other supports.

Mr Healy added: “It is critical that Government communicate a co-ordinated, coherent, and clear programme for the continuation of supports and full reopening of businesses with urgency. Office-based organisations must be included in this planning with a roadmap offering guidance on operating procedures through to the end of 2021 and beyond, to ensure that businesses work in line with the national plans on living with Covid. Any delay or lack of clarity from Government will undermine the viability of businesses, the speed of our recovery and the sustainability of our economy.”