Plea for Economy Minister not to leave out some busineses from COVID-19 help packages

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Assurances must be given by the Economy Minister that new COVID-19 financial assistance schemes don’t exclude some businesses, says the SDLP.

Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly wants assurances for businesses which ‘fell through the cracks of previous schemes’.

“We are now into another period of restrictions, a package of measures proposed by the joint First Ministers and agreed to by the Executive.

“Workers, businesses and communities will all feel the strain and hardship of the restrictions that have been announced but it is vital that as we work to protect public health, the Executive steps up to protect the economy too.

“During the previous lockdown, many workers and industries were excluded by the schemes designed by the Economy Minister. These people cannot be left behind and left in hardship again.

“The SDLP isn’t interested in political squabbling or Ministers who pass the buck.

“The reality is the Department of Economy is now creating a financial support scheme for those who aren’t included in Minister Murphy’s recently announced scheme. Instead of picking and choosing what parts of the economy Minister Dodds wants to help, she needs to operate as the Minister for the whole Economy and leave no one behind.

“The DUP agreed at the Executive to include driving instructors on the list of close contacts, but the Economy Minister who is creating a scheme for those affected, has not confirmed to the industry that they will be included.

“The SDLP and our Minister stand ready to support the Economy Minister in delivering a clear, simplified scheme that will protect the livelihoods of everyone and not just some.”

A Department for the Economy spokesperson said: “The Minister will be urgently bringing forward the details of additional support schemes in the coming days to provide support to any businesses restricted by Health Regulations but not covered by the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme. The regulations state that close contact services are not permitted to operate – this includes driving instructors (except for motorcycle instruction). Therefore it is the Minister’s intention to include them in the support scheme.”

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