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'Too little too late' - Government trying to bail lockdown counties out but plan is criticised

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The Kildare Village outlets

The Kildare Village outlets

The Kildare Village outlets

A 'Midlands bailout' for the Covid-hit counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly has been announced by Government - only to be immediately criticised.

But the package of supports is 'too little too late' for struggling businesses in the region according to the Labour Party.

"A once-off additional payment of between €800 and €5,000 will not make a scintilla of difference for struggling businesses," said Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Labour's enterprise spokesperson.

Barry Gilroy of the Bridge House Hotel in Tullamore said the €5,000 top-up was a "drop in the ocean". It would not even pay the hotel's electricity bill for a month, he said. His business has not even received the original reopening grant, he told RTÉ's Drivetime.

The stay-and-spend rebate was also not available until October and would only come in during flu season, when people would likely stay home. There has already been many cancellations for the Autumn season, he said.

Fighting

"We've lost August, which would have given us a fighting chance of getting through the winter. We'll start running out of money in November."

Michael McGrath, Minister for Public Expenditure, said the Government recognised a need to do more for the affected counties.

The measures include a 20pc top-up for the business Restart Grant Plus scheme, bringing the new maximum to €30,000. There will also be €1m for Local Enterprise Offices in the area to promote the range of supports and schemes for firms across the three countries.

Similarly there would be €1m in a promotion campaign to "drive footfall" in the three counties, with ringfenced funds for businesses. Applications to Microfinancing Ireland would be prioritised for those coming from the three counties.

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Minister Michael McGrath said diversity could help cut out “groupthink”

Minister Michael McGrath said diversity could help cut out “groupthink”

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Minister Michael McGrath said diversity could help cut out “groupthink”

Allan Shine, chief executive of County Kildare Chamber, said: "We do welcome the €1m that has been given to Fáilte Ireland to market the region.

"What was done in a very short timeframe, we've done well with the package."

But Tessa Stokes, a businesswoman, said there has been a huge hit to her business, which had just reopened after five months when the three-county restrictions came in, and that the limited lockdown had "brought us to our knees".

Mr McGrath said, however, that the decision had been based on public health advice, to protect not only the people in the three counties, but across the while country.

"It does come at a cost for local people - the inconvenience, the impact on their life and on local businesses and the economy. Today's decision is a recognition of that."

The additional funds were a 'template' for possible restrictions having to be brought in elsewhere, he said. "We really hope that's not the case, and people are making huge efforts to control this virus, but if they do have to be brought in elsewhere today's announcement is a template and a starting point."

He emphasised that the 2pc reduction in Vat would begin in two weeks' time on September 1, while the stay-and-spend initiative would begin on October 1.

These additional measures were "an extra little bit of help", he said.