24/07/20

Jobs Stimulus: Imaginative range of supports and grants for the Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sports and Gaeltacht sectors

Statement by Minister Catherine Martin TD: Jobs Stimulus Package

Imaginative range of supports and grants for the Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sports and Gaeltacht sectors

Re-engaging consumers and the public, all over Ireland, while implementing COVID-required health measures

Our Tourism, Culture, Sports and Gaeltacht sectors are a fundamental expression of who we are as a nation, and they have been in crisis in recent months as a direct result of the COVID pandemic. These sectors rely particularly on personal contact and social interaction, they have been enormously impacted, and their paths to recovery will be challenging. It is notable that a considerable proportion of employers in both the Tourism and Arts/Entertainment sectors have been availing of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS), compared with an average of 33% across the economy, reflecting the particular vulnerability these sectors. With the global collapse of international tourism, in particular, the OECD has estimated a decline of 60-80% this year, devastating this country’s largest indigenous sector, which in 2019 employed over 260,000 people, and which generated over €7 billion in direct spend for our economy, of which approximately 75% was export earnings from overseas tourists. The new Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme will help sustain the future viability of jobs in these sectors, which will be so important to Ireland’s national recovery.

The Jobs Stimulus measures agreed at Cabinet yesterday are therefore critical for the future sustainability of these valuable sectors, and for the Irish economy as a whole.  They provide the vital supports for businesses to retain existing jobs and to create new jobs, and they will help build confidence in consumers and communities all over Ireland.

“I worked very closely with my Ministerial colleagues in Cabinet to ensure that the TWSS was extended well into 2021, so that businesses can remain viable into the future, and vital employment across these sectors can be maintained and supported.  In the Culture, Sports and Tourism sectors, the TWSS extension will deliver employment and consumer benefits all over Ireland, as the sectors have a wide regional spread, including in Gaeltacht regions which have been particularly badly hit over the past few months” Minister Martin said.

The new Employment Wage Support Scheme (EWSS) will greatly benefit tourism enterprises, as well as people working and operating across all the sectors covered by this Department.  The inclusion of seasonal staff and new employees is particularly welcome, for the tourism, sports, Gaeltacht and cultural sector, which provide employment to many thousands of seasonal staff.

Businesses require help to stabilise, reopen and reemploy their staff; therefore enhanced direct grants will be provided from a revised ReStart Grant. This grant has been increased and extended with an additional €300m in funding being provided. These changes will mean that the restart grant will be available to more enterprises in the tourism and other sectors. A number of businesses, such as B&Bs, not previously included in the scheme, will now be eligible.

The Minister also welcomed the extension for a further three months to the end of September of the waiver of commercial rates for business impacted by Covid-19.

Commenting on the extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, Minister Martin said “Both the Tourism and the Cultural sectors have been particularly reliant on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), and the extension announced today was one for which I made a very strong case, given the degree to which people working in tourism and culture, and the creatives, artists and makers have been relying on these payments since the day their sectors shut down in March”  .

The Minister said that the new EWSS and extension and changes to the PUP will be complemented by a number of investment measures across the tourism, sport, culture and Gaeltacht sectors. While the PUP and EWSS are cross-sectoral measures and cannot be sector specific, I have secured funding for a range of new initiatives which will assist the arts sector in particular, ensuring that the gradual reduction of PUP id balanced by new measures for artist, performers and arts workers, including increased funding for the arts council, the audio visual sector and supports for live performances.

“I am particularly pleased that businesses and organisations in the sectors for which I am responsible are eligible to apply for the new suite of business support schemes announced after Cabinet yesterday, and being administered through the Department of Business, Enterprise,  and Innovation.  These schemes and programmes will be of significant assistance to our vulnerable but viable hospitality, Gaeltacht and cultural businesses in their recovery from the economic shock of the past few months.  Measures supporting business cash flow, financial assistance with COVID-related re-opening costs, and also the fixed costs that mounted throughout the lockdown, will all help secure jobs and employment, by helping businesses survive, and then to thrive.

“My Ministerial brief covers a wide range of sectors, each of specific interest and value to the Irish economy, and to our citizens.  The Jobs Stimulus package of measures has provided solid investment and certainty across these sectors, and is very welcome, as we deal with these extraordinarily difficult times”.

Tourism is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry, employing more than 260,000 people (in 2019), with 70% of these jobs outside of Dublin.  The sector has been devastated by the impact of COVID-19, and will take a long time to recover, given the collapse in international tourism, social distancing measures, and the required limits on gatherings to protect public health.

The Tourism Recovery Task Force is currently drawing up a recovery plan in consultation with industry, aimed at rebuilding Ireland’s largest indigenous sector, which brings so many jobs, so many visitors, and so much fun to towns and villages all over Ireland.   “The measures announced today deliver on some of the key recommendations of the Taskforce in their interim report and we will follow with additional measures as appropriate in the Autumn, when the Taskforce concludes its work”,  Minister  Martin said.

The measures in the Jobs Stimulus package will protect jobs right across Ireland in our vulnerable but viable tourism and hospitality businesses, so that this vital sector will have the resilience required to be a strong engine in the nation’s economic recovery.

In addition to introduction of the new EWSS, the revised Restart Grant and the extension to the rates waiver referenced above, which will support jobs and critical employment relationships in the tourism and hospitality sector, there are a number of sector-specific measures included in the Stimulus Programme.

The Minister said that the new “Stay and Spend” initiative which is valued at €270m, will help stimulate demand in the very challenging shoulder and off-peak season. It will complement Fáilte Ireland’s “Ireland, make a Break for It” ad campaign is showcasing the fantastic holidays Irish people can enjoy this year. “This is a concerted effort to help support the tourism, hospitality and cultural sectors, as well as reminding us all about the great holidays right here, on our doorstep!” Minister Martin said.

The Minister was also pleased to secure a further €10 million to assist tourism and hospitality businesses to help cover the costs of adapting their premises to meet public health requirements and making them safer for customers.  Combined with repurposed funding from Fáilte Ireland, this means that a fund of €26 million will be available for this purpose.

In addition to the broad tourism measures, the stimulus package will include a specific measure to address the coach tour sector. “I am aware of how badly impacted the coach tourism sector has been by the crisis and the absence of overseas tourists.  These businesses are a vital part of Irish tourism and we will need them when our overseas visitors return.  That is why I have asked Fáilte Ireland to develop a Business Continuity Scheme to help these businesses through this very difficult period.  Fáilte will now engage with the sector to develop this scheme which will be allocated €10 million”.

Further measures which will benefit the tourism sector include the €2 billion Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme and the package of liquidity and enterprise investment measures in place to support small and micro companies.

Ireland’s unique Arts and Culture set us apart in the world; our creative strengths form the basis of our national identity and are central to our unique high global reputation.  These sectors have taken a very particular hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; cultural venues and events were among the first to be closed in the country’s public health response to the crisis, and they will be among the last to recover; restrictions on social distancing and on gatherings are likely to have long terms impacts on performances, displays, festivals and concerts.

The Jobs Stimulus package has specifically addressed these matters.  Back in June, the Government made an additional €25 million available to support cultural activities, including bursaries and commissions, resources for museums and culture workers, both through the Arts Council (€20 million) and directly through my Department (€5 million).

The Stimulus package now has further, new measures to support and nurture this important sector through these difficult times.

The culture and audio visual sectors will benefit from a new €10 million pilot “Performance and Production Support Package” to support the live performance and the audiovisual production sector.   Under this funding package, a new scheme will be put in place to assist venues and promoters of live performances in music and theatre, by helping to de-risk the costs of preparing for new productions which may subsequently have to be postponed or cancelled.  Also under this package, an audiovisual scheme will be put in place to assist the film and TV drama  sector. These pilot schemes will be designed in consultation with the sectors, and aim to build confidence in recommencing production, rehearsals and event planning now for the months ahead.

A further €2 million will also be available for the next round Sound and Vision for the audiovisual sector.   Broadcasting has played a vital role in providing reliable news and information to citizens throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and in bringing together local communities.   The additional funding to this sector comes on top of other supports made this year totalling €13.2m.  A €3 million TV Drama Fund administered by Screen Ireland will support the production of new Irish TV drama content in line with the Government’s Audiovisual Action Plan, and will grow the sector, firmly placing creativity at the centre of Irish government policy.

In addition, the Jobs Stimulus has provided a new €10 million Culture Fund, which will include increased funding for Creative Ireland, to employ artists through the Creative Youth and Creative Communities programmes, funding to support the commissioning of artists to produce creative content for the national broadcast, a dedicated fund for musicians, recognising the particular difficulties being experienced by music performers across a range of genres and funding for Ealaíon na Gaeltachta for new artists’ bursaries and arts activities in Gaeltacht schools.

And, in line with the commitment made in the Programme for Government, I will be progressing a new multi-disciplinary task force to protect and sustain the arts and culture sector through the pandemic.

The additional monies allocated in this Jobs Stimulus package bring the Arts Council’s total allocation this year to €105 – some 40% higher than in 2019.

A key objective of this funding is to provide enhanced support for freelance artists and arts workers who have been impacted severely by COVID-19.

The stimulus measures will create more opportunities for paid creative and cultural activity, including through increased support for the Arts Council, TV drama production, live performance, and specific measures targeted at musicians.

Further capital funding of up to €6 million is also being made available to accelerate the redevelopment and renewal of our National Cultural Institutions envisaged under the National Development Plan.  Over the coming 18 months we will seek to complete the design and planning phases of a number of these iconic buildings with a view to commencing construction in 2021.  Highlights under this programme of capital investment include the reimagining and significant restoration of the National Library.   The National Archives redevelopment will see our valuable trove of State archived material rehoused.  Advance design and planning works will commence at the National Concert Hall and the Abbey Theatre, and a project in the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork City will enhance this cornerstone building in a regenerated city plaza.

The Sport sector too has been directly impacted by the pandemic; all sporting activity was suspended in March, and is only now beginning to come back to life across the country.  In June, the Government agreed a new funding package of €70 million to support the sport sector (IRFU, GAA, FAI, National Governing Bodies of Sport, clubs and communities).  The Return to Sport Expert Group has been liaising with health authorities throughout, to ensure that this key component of Ireland’s social fabric returns and reopens on a safe and sustainable footing.

The Jobs Stimulus package has made a further €2.5 million fund available to support the re-opening of swimming pools. Swimming is one of the most popular forms of sport in Ireland across all age groups and abilities, but pools are facing real challenges in reopening, in particular with high energy costs.  This welcome fund which Sport Ireland will administer will support reopening of publicly-accessible swimming pools.

And in the Gaeltacht, where both my colleague, Minister of State Jack Chambers, and I are acutely aware that businesses and communities alike have suffered a huge reduction in economic activity, tourism and educational visitors, the extensions of the TWSS and the PUP will give valuable financial supports directly into those communities where Irish is still the language of the community.  In addition, the Jobs Stimulus package is making an additional €8 million available to Údarás na Gaeltachta for essential upgrades to existing building stock and water treatment facilities in order to facilitate the marketing of currently dormant factory spaces for modern job creation projects. This will create 40-50 new construction jobs across Gaeltacht communities in the short term and the re-developed building stock will support the longer-term creation of 320 new jobs in the Gaeltacht, in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies. Coupled with the additional funding of €250,000 being provided to Ealaín na Gaeltachta in support of the traditional arts in school settings and the overarching language planning process in Gaeltacht regions, this specific additional investment in Gaeltacht regions will be of significant benefit.

And finally, the Islands, which will shortly be moving to Minister Humphreys’ Department, will be supported by an additional €2 million fund, including €1 million for an accelerated Minor Capital Works Programme in 2020, €500,000 for preparatory works on the development of Inis Oírr pier   and €500,000 for works to upgrade the recently purchased Aerfort Chonamara.  These works, once completed, will improve access to the islands for both the island communities and visitors year-round, thus generating increased economic activity for what, in the main, are Irish-speaking communities.   While tourism is one of the main industries on the islands, improved infrastructure will benefit not only the islands but the wider region on the mainland.

It is expected that these direct supports to Gaeltacht regions, in addition to the benefits accruing to the hospitality sector and the Irish-medium audio-visual and arts sector will help kick-start economic activity in the Gaeltacht over the coming months.   The supports announced today follow an additional €5 million earmarked recently for Údarás na Gaeltachta from the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, the €600,000 provided by Government for the body’s On-Line Trading Voucher Scheme and the €4.7 million stabilisation package announced for the Irish summer colleges sector.

In summary, my Department’s wide brief – covering Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht – is well-served by the Government’s Jobs Stimulus package.  A broad-range of very specific supports and measures, to safeguard jobs across these fields, now sit alongside the economy-wide measures that have been explained in more detail elsewhere.  Recovery will require on-going oversight and management of sectoral issues. I fully intend to continue to engage actively with stakeholders and delivery partners in these fields.  They will find that I am an active and supportive Minister, and my ambition is to grow employment, and enjoyment, across my brief.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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