Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Finance whether Localised Restrictions Support Scheme grants will be available after the 30th April 2021 for businesses where, due to no outdoor or reduced capacity, it is not viable to open. [Priority Written]
Minister of Finance: The legal authority that was given to my Department to provide financial assistance relates only to those businesses that are restricted by the Health Regulations. Localised Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS) funding will continue for businesses until they are allowed to re-open or resume their normal services. When business sectors come out of restrictions my Department can no longer provide payment to businesses in that sector, regardless of whether an individual business actually opens or not.
Following the decisions taken by the Executive on 15 April, the LRSS will continue to support close contact services and outdoor visitor attractions until 22 April, and non-essential retail and self-contained tourist accommodation until 29 April.
Hospitality will be allowed to serve outside from 30 April. I think this is a positive first step for those businesses, but I recognise that not every café, restaurant or pub will be able to make that work. It isn’t a full re-opening and businesses will still be subject to severe restrictions and will see a reduced trade. I have, therefore, agreed to continue paying businesses support payments on the basis that only being allowed to serve outside still represents a severe curtailing of the service which these businesses can offer. Businesses such as hospitality and gyms will therefore be paid until at least 23 May due to the restrictions that will continue to apply. I will keep this matter under review.