Government must avoid under-reacting to scale of latest pandemic crisis- County Wexford Chamber calls for expansion of business supports

Speaking this afternoon (6 January 2021) following Cabinet’s latest announcement, County Wexford Chamber Operations Manager Emma Dunphy urged Government to expand financial supports for impacted businesses.

“The Government’s announcement this afternoon of tighter restrictions will not have been the start to the new year many businesses and local economies were hoping for.

However, with infection rates and hospitalisations beyond anything we have seen throughout 2020, the additional restrictions announced are essential if we are to limit infection and loss of life.

Our worst fears for the pandemic will likely come to pass in the next few weeks, so we all must work collectively to limit our movements so that we can keep each other safe and reduce the rate of infection.

While we must do all that we can to support the collective effort to keep people safe, there is frustration throughout communities that we find ourselves in this position again.

Relying on “personal responsibility” to manage behaviour during a pandemic must be abandoned. Our experience of re-opening the economy and existing alongside the virus has evidenced that this cannot work without systematic enforcement and approach.

For today’s restrictions to be effective, and for there to be any hope of sustainably re-opening parts of the economy when it is safe to do so, Government must ensure that appropriate checks and balances are in place.

The coming weeks and months are likely to be the most difficult we have experienced, but the end is in sight. When Budget 2021 was published last October, there was an assumption that no vaccine would be available this year. Thankfully, rollout has already begun and we can now envision normality sooner than might have been expected. Government finances should be well placed to support the economy in the intervening period.

Bearing this in mind, it is imperative that Government urgently expands and increases the supports available to impacted businesses. We must also move to focus on the exit strategy for viable businesses, which have been surviving based on the Government supports available but will need some breathing space to rebuild their businesses once the worst of the threat subsides.

With Exchequer Returns in a better position than expected, the availability of low-interest finance through the ECB, and Budget 2021 having been prepared on a very cautious basis, we cannot afford to under-react to the challenge facing us.

Without these interventions, the growing debt burden experienced by businesses will likely trigger a wave of insolvencies and job losses that will do permanent damage to local economies throughout the country, potentially coinciding with when we are able to return to some form of normality. Having incurred a deficit of €19 billion to support the economy in 2020, Government must continue to invest in the economy so we ensure viable businesses do not fall at the final hurdle.

We call on our members and the wider business community in County Wexford to do what they can to support their staff, ensuring they work from home if they can do so, work with Government to ensure these new restrictions are impactful, and to make use of every financial support available.

Finally, Government and the EU must do everything possible to resources and accelerate the Vaccination programme, providing a much needed boost in morale to the economy and society.”