Budget 2020 represents the Government’s first steps towards building a better Country in the wake of the pandemic, Clare TD Joe Carey said this evening.

Deputy Carey said the €17.75 billion Budget – the largest in the history of the State – reflects the “unprecedented” times we live in. The local Fine Gael TD said the measures announced in today’s Budget are the vital first steps in addressing the huge public health and economic challenges the country faces over the coming years.

Deputy Carey, who is also the chair of the all-party Shannon Airport Oireachtas Group, has made repeated representations to ministerial colleagues seeking supports for the crisis-hit tourism, travel and hospitality sectors this year.

The Clare TD welcomed the €55 million earmarked for a new Tourism Business Support Scheme, as well as the €10 million package to assist Shannon and Cork Airports.

Deputy Carey said: “The importance of Shannon Airport cannot be understated and it is clear we must do whatever it takes to safeguard the airport and the 46,000 plus jobs it supports throughout the Mid-West and Western regions.

“The new €55 million Tourism Business Support Scheme, along with the reduction in VAT to 9% will also come as a much-needed relief to a hospitality sector that has been decimated by the Covid-19.

“As we’ve seen here in Clare, hotels, pubs, restaurants and other businesses in the entertainment, tourism and hospitality sectors are under massive strain so the VAT cut will hopefully help businesses to bring in more customers in the short to medium terms.

“The extension of the commercial rates holiday will also provide some relief for businesses and bring down costs.”

Deputy Carey also welcomed the new Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), which will provide a payment to closed or effectively closed businesses, based on their turnover, of up to €5,000 per week.

“The CRSS programme will support businesses in restricted sectors or based in locations that due to Covid-19 restrictions are prohibited from operating; closed on a temporary, county or regional basis; or operating at minimum no turnover.

“The CRSS will supplement the existing Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme and I was pleased to hear Minister Donohoe confirm there will be no cliff edge for that scheme, which is so crucial to the businesses and workers in Clare relying on it. It will continue into next year,” the Clare TD added.

Minister Donohoe’s budgetary package amounts to a record total spend of €17.75 billion. Some €8.5 billion will be spent on helping public services address the challenges posed by Covid-19, including €2.1 billion in contingency funding.

Deputy Carey added: “Budget 2021 is a significant package of nearly €18 billion. The size of this intervention is unprecedented in the history of the Irish State.

“As during the last economic crisis in this country, Fine Gael in Government is supporting businesses in Clare to get back on their feet. We saw before how employment creation was key to our economic and societal recovery and we will prioritise that once again.

“Funding for the Covid-Enterprise Support Grant for the self-employed is doubled from €12 million to €24 million to help small and medium businesses. They are the lifeblood of our economy and we will continue to support them in their hour of need.

“Thanks to Budget 2021, self-employed workers will be able to earn up to €480 a month gross without affecting their PUP payment. This will benefit people in the arts community and the taxi industry for example, meaning they will no longer be prohibited from taking some work in order to keep their PUP.

“The Part-Time Job Incentive scheme is to be made available to the self-employed who intend to resume their business but can only do so intermittently or on a limited or reduced basis when they leave the PUP payment.

“In a significant measure for self-employed people, we are increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit to €1,650. Fine Gael introduced this tax credit for job creators and we have worked tirelessly to equalise it with the PAYE Tax Credit to ensure fair play for the self-employed. Budget 2021 achieves this.

“A reduced VAT rate will assist the hospitality and tourism sector which has been hit so hard by the pandemic. The rate will reduce from 13 ½ pc to 9pc with effect from 1 November.

“Other measures to benefit job creation include the extension of the Knowledge Development Box relief for a further two years until December 2022 and an amendment to CGT Entrepreneurs Relief removing 5% holding requirement at the time of disposal, meaning a greater ability for a person to expand their business without worrying about losing this relief.”

Deputy Carey added: “Fine Gael in Government worked hard to get this country out of economic recession once before and make no mistake about it, we will do so again.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: “No one could have predicted the year that we have just had and I want businesses and workers to know that as we face into more uncertain times, the Government is here for you and our your side.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe added: “2020 will be recorded as arguably the most challenging year we have faced as a nation. To everyone who has experienced fear, stress and anxiety, let me say unequivocally, that there is hope, and that we will come out of this crisis.”

Deputy Carey has also welcomed the extra funding provided to the Department of Education, which will reduce the pupil-teacher ratio in our primary classrooms by one to 25-1 next year.

The Clare TD said: “This is welcome progress on something I have made repeated representations to the Education Minister Norma Foley and Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath.

“These proposals will see the creation of more than 300 mainstream teaching posts, and this is in addition to the over 265 posts which are to be provided to meet demographic pressures. However, we need to build on this by reducing class sizes by one every year for the next four budgets.”