Athlone Chamber of Commerce welcomes recent stimulus package announcement

Athlone Chamber of Commerce and Industry has welcomed the economic stimulus package announced detailed by the Government last week.

Speaking this week, Athlone Chamber CEO, Gerry McInerney, noted the beneficial features of the stimulus package were a sue reflection of the seriousness of the situation facing many businesses within the local economy.

“The Government’s announcements are a strong recognition of the gravity of the situation facing our local economy in Athlone and these measures will provide some breathing space for business until Budget 2021.

“The ongoing commitments to a Wage Support Scheme, expanded grant aid and liquidity supports are welcome and have formed part of Chamber Ireland’s priority recommendation to Government in the past several weeks. The tax rebate for tourism, which is a very important component of Athlone’s economy, will also provide a welcome stimulus to the sector as it approaches the winter season.

“The priority now must be to ensure that the schemes and funds announced are immediately available to business. There needs to be rapid implementation, clear communications, and equity in how these supports are administered,” Mr McInerney remarked.

The Chamber CEO stated that the rates waiver detailed in the stimulus package may not be as what was hoped for the local business community.

“However, we are conscious that some of the announcements today, particularly the rates waiver, may fall short of what is needed. We know how deeply impacted many of our smaller local businesses in Athlone have been because of COVID-19.

“Many will struggle to pay commercial rates and other bills this year, which will leave our local authorities in Westmeath and Roscommon in a very vulnerable position at a time when we need them to be supporting and investing in local economies more than ever.

There is now a need to move towards a more strategic approach from Government, the first six months of the COVID-19 crisis have, of necessity, been characterised by reactive measures that have changed on a monthly, and sometimes, fortnightly basis. The actions taken so far have been commendable.

“While understandably the initial State response was predicated on the COVID-19 crisis being a short, sharp shock, that is no longer a tenable position. Businesses that are trying to trade through these circumstances must consider timelines that cover six month, 12 month, and 18 month periods.

“If Government activity is to be effective, it will have to provide the private sector with guidance that extends across such time-spans. We will be lobbying for such longer-term guidance in the 2021 budget, only months away,” Mr McInerney concluded.


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