"Nobody should be evicted or impoverished as a result of the Coronavirus. Other European countries have placed an amnesty on rents while COVID-19 lasts and for the sake of our society we should do the same."
This is the view of the Social Democrats Galway City East councillor, Owen Hanley, who has welcomed the beginning of discussions between the Government and the banks to freeze mortgages during the coronavirus lockdown.
"This country bailed out the banks, the least the banks can do is return the favour in this crisis," Cllr Hanley said, noting that an estimated 140,000 people in the State, at the time of going to press, have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus.
This breaks down at 70,000 restaurant workers; 50,000 pub and bar staff; and 20,000 crèche and childcare workers. "This is an astounding amount of unemployment in a few days," he said.
'Closing not an easy decision for any business owner, but they put their staff and patrons first. Every one of them deserve our support once they can open their doors again'
While the Department for Social Protections has opened a special application for social welfare support for those who have lost income as a result of the coronavirus, Cllr Hanley is calling for "a radical response" from the Government to protect those most affected. In particular, he wants to see the formation of a plan, by Government, in consultation with landlords, to freeze rents for a period. "The number of landlords I've spoken to have been very understanding," he said, "but the Government needs to act to ensure security for tenants."
Support needed for businesses
Cllr Hanley has praised the actions of local businesses, restaurants, and bars, for "acting responsibly" by temporarily closing. "This was not an easy decision for any business owner," he said, "but they put their staff and patrons first and every one of them should be commended and deserve our support once they can open their doors again."
Until then, Cllr Hanley suggested supports needed to be provided, and he called on the Galway City Council to "take a serious look at the corporation rates" and provide a break for businesses "already losing money".
'If our healthcare response to the coronavirus shows anything, it is that when we are driven and come together we can achieve great things in the face of adversity'
Cllr Hanley argues that a "complete freeze" on rates over the next couple of weeks is an option that should be "kept on the table", and the consequent gap in local authority funding should be supported at a national or European level.
"This would allow the council to offer a genuine break for small businesses," he said. "All forms of support for SMEs given in this time that could truly wipe out so many of our local and community based businesses."
The Galway City East councillor also praised healthcare workers for how they have dealt with the crisis, and encouraged people to stay strong, and civic minded during this period. "If our healthcare response to the coronavirus shows anything, it is that when we are driven and come together we can achieve great things in the face of adversity," he said. "We must keep that spirit up over the coming weeks."