Support businesses now to avoid cut-price lockdown, says Muir

Alliance Finance spokesperson Andrew Muir MLA has called on the Economy Minister to urgently support businesses and workers during the second wave of COVID-19, to avoid a “cut-price lockdown” which would leave many excluded from the necessary assistance required to support livelihoods.

Speaking in the Assembly this afternoon, Mr Muir asked the Minister whether she would bid for funding from the £55.2 million central pot held by the Executive for further sectoral support. Schemes from the Department of the Economy announced earlier in the year left thousands of businesses across Northern Ireland excluded from receiving support, in spite of the Department not spending its full funding allocation.

“With further restrictions inevitable in Northern Ireland, the Department for the Economy must use the funding available to provide urgent support to businesses and workers. The Minister should bring forward detailed proposals to the Executive at the earliest opportunity,” said North Down MLA Mr Muir.

“In response to local lockdowns in Derry and Strabane, the Executive has announced grant support of £800 every two weeks for small business, or £1,200 for large businesses in affected areas. The UK Government has also announced workers of businesses forced to shut due to restrictions will have two-thirds of their wages paid by the government.

“I have already called on the Finance Minister to continue to lobby the UK Government to allow the Executive to borrow in order to fund further business support. Northern Ireland’s inability to borrow for COVID-19 interventions is limiting our capacity to protect lives and livelihoods as we enter a turbulent winter.”