Economy Minister must take action now to support excluded, says Dickson

COVID-19 Economy Stewart Dickson

East Antrim Alliance MLA, Stewart Dickson, has called on the Economy Minister to take urgent action to ensure that all those previously excluded from Covid-19 grant schemes are provided with support before the end of the financial year.

Mr Dickson said: “This has been an extremely challenging year for businesses across Northern Ireland as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, with many being forced to close or trade in a very restricted manner.

“It is therefore unacceptable that some areas of our economy have been left to fend for themselves. It was extremely frustrating to hear the Finance Minister’s recent announcement that £420m of funds are still to be allocated before the end the financial year, including nearly £300m for Covid-19 support.

“It is crucial that the Economy Minister comes forward with schemes to utilise these funds and cover those excluded. ExcludedNI, a group that campaigns on behalf of those left out, have produced a range of options for this, and I have written to the Minister to ask that these be urgently considered.

“In addition to covering the self-employed that have been left out, consideration must be given to travel agents, tour operators and our events sector. Businesses in these areas have seen demand fall to practically zero as a result of restrictions, and so sector-specific help must be made available to them, without further delay.

“It would be wholly unacceptable for the Executive to return such a vast amount of money to the Treasury while many Northern Ireland businesses are in such critical need. Time is extremely short, so the Economy Minister must take action immediately, and bring forward schemes for Executive approval to provide the lifelines that businesses deserve.”