Muir: Minister must help those who miss out on hardship fund

Alliance Finance spokesperson Andrew Muir MLA has said action must be taken to assist many businesses still left without any Grant Assistance following launch of limited Hardship Fund by Department of the Economy late on Friday night.

He said: “Details of the Hardship Fund are welcome but extremely overdue, many weeks after fund was announced. For some this will be too late as a result of the slow pace in getting the scheme launched with cash running out and payment of monies possibly many weeks away if pace of delivery under previous Grant Schemes is anything to go by.

“A real feeling of anger and extreme disappointment is being communicated from many businesses excluded from this scheme after being strung along for weeks in the hope that the Hardship Fund would address their needs to enable their business to survive only to find out late on Friday night they to be excluded. As one business owner has told me “I’m going to be left bankrupt.”

“There are still too many people left alone, facing financial ruin – the Minister must take step to address this urgently, rather than overlooking their exclusion from the Hardship Fund which has been her only action to date. For example, Sole Traders, which includes a hairdresser in my constituency, who can only access universal credit, but have rent and utility bills to pay, Social Enterprises registered as charities, or those operating a business within shared premises often designed to facilitate innovative businesses regularly set up by young people. There are faces and stories behind each and they cannot be ignored. If the guidelines have been wrongly drafted and sole traders plus others are actually eligible a clarification and apology must be issued without delay.

“With massive gaps remain to be bridged and those eligible for grants stuck waiting for weeks to be paid it is imperative the Economy Minister finds ways to get the money out as quickly as possible to those eligible, and to help those businesses still left without any grant support during this time of need. Clarification must also be given on grant amount that will be issued and when, rumours circulating on the amount and extreme delays that could arise when monies paid are extremely concerning. The jobs of workers and future of many businesses depend upon it.”