Last night, Finance Minister Conor Murphy wrote to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor on behalf of the Executive, urging an extension of the furlough scheme.
The letter reads:
The economic priority during this pandemic has been to protect jobs and the effort that has gone into this to date has been welcomed. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), along with the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), sustained many jobs and livelihoods during this unprecedented crisis. Some 249,600 people have been furloughed in this region up to 31 July 2020, representing around 32% of the local workforce. A further 78,000 claims have been made to the SEISS, which is 81% of the eligible population.
However now that the CJRS is coming to an end in October, there is a huge concern that it will lead to large scale redundancies, particularly in the hardest hit industries. We are already seeing unemployment increase locally, and once the scheme closes fully, we expect to see significant increases. Many employers who have not been able to open or where their income has been substantially reduced, have already made redundancies and the tapering of the CJRS has been a factor.
The economic recovery is still in its infancy and it will be some time before many businesses are anywhere close to being able to achieve viable trading levels. We are nearing the October cliff-edge now and many businesses are still struggling to viably trade and many are not yet able to open or have significantly reduced income, particularly in the hardest hit industries such as hospitality, retail, leisure and aerospace.
I would therefore urge you to extend the scheme past the end of October. In particular an extension for those sectors unable to operate or who are operating at significantly reduced levels is essential. An extension of the CJRS, particularly for the hardest hit sectors, would continue to protect jobs and livelihoods and ensure that the positive benefits of our combined interventions to date are not wasted.
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