A moratorium on commercial rates, insurance rebates, and mortgage and rent freezes, are urgently required to assist individuals, and small/medium businesses to withstand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the view of the Mayor of Galway, Independent city councillor, Mike Cubbard, who is calling on the Government to intervene a number of different areas, and to prevent any institutions, such as banks, from exploiting the situation.
"We are in uncharted waters and face complete uncertainty into the future," the Mayor said. "In recent days pub, restaurant, and childcare workers have seen their place of employment close. Many more may follow in retail, hospitality, and tourism. I believe these extraordinary times require extraordinary measures."
'In a time when many are closing their doors, due to no fault of their own, and are unsure if they will ever open again, it is our duty to stand by them as they will look to re-establish their trade and re-employ our family, friends, and neighbours, when the time comes to move on from this period'
The Mayor is calling on the banks to show leadership and to provide reassurance to customers, particularly in relation to mortgage payments.
"In recent days I have heard of a small business owner who went to his bank seeking their support to defer a mortgage payment so he could continue to pay his staff," he said. "Incredibly, the bank offered him a loan to cover his shortfall at an 8.5 per cent interest rate. We cannot sit back and allow the financial institutions we as a nation bailed out to now become opportunistic vultures. Leadership and comfort to our SME sector are crucial at this juncture."
Rents and rates freeze needed for Galway
As a result, Mayor Cubbard is calling for a general rents and rates freeze. He wants to see the Government introduce a moratorium on commercial rates for those affected; and also, in conjunction with European Union emergency funding, provide finance to local authorities for the remainder of 2020, while suspending rates payments to small businesses.
"We must introduce a freeze on mortgages and rents to ease the stress and anxiety to homeowners, those renting and local authority tenants who are affected by COVID-19," he said. "These are extreme, but necessary measures, in a time when many closing their door, and due to no fault of their own, are unsure if they will ever open again. It is our duty to stand by them as they will look to re-establish their trade and re-employ our family, friends and neighbours when the time comes to move on from this period."
He is also calling on insurance companies to "play their part" and ensure a rebate will be given to policyholders whose business have closed.
The Mayor has held meetings with the Chamber of Commerce and various business leaders in the city, and said "a real sense of fear among staff and employers is palpable". However he said he is "heartened by the fact" that various groups "from all over Galway are united in trying to find solutions for the general public". A subsequent meeting was held with staff in the Department of Social Welfare.