McAleer shocked at DAERA failure to bid for COVID funds
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Mr McAleer said: “During Thursday’s AERA committee meeting I asked the DAERA Finance Director for an update on bids made by DAERA in response to the urgent call by the Finance Minister for bids.
“I was astonished to learn that DAERA has not identified any additional need and as such has not submitted any bids.
“Farmers and rural community organisations were at the forefront of the response to COVID. Many of these same community organisations are carrying substantial overheads and running costs for buildings that are not currently in use due to the restrictions and farmers are still feeling the brunt of a collapse in demand for steak and other high value cuts but have to keep producing food while adhering to COVID safety guidelines.”
Mr McAleer continued: “Many of these primary producers are hill farmers and they are experiencing the additional pressures of no ANC payment and extra losses due to the Minister’s decision to halt the transition towards a flat rate of Single Farm Payment entitlements. I believe that a scheme could be developed within the next few weeks to help these and other sectors impacted.
“The explanation was given at the committee was that it is too late in the financial year to develop any schemes and the department could run the risk of underspend. However, all other departments are in the same situation and they are proceeding with preparing bids.”
Mr McAleer concluded: “I have asked for this matter to be re-considered and brought back to the committee in the budget briefing next week and I have tabled a question to the Minister on the issue.
“I just find it unacceptable that DAERA has not identified any need for additional funds despite the urgent call for bids. This will result in lost opportunities and I feel strongly that rural communities are being let down in this regard.”