Free car parking is to reinstated for health and social care staff, it has been confirmed.
And a £19 million pot is to be made available to support taxis and private bus and coach operators.
Both measures have been confirmed by the Northern Ireland Executive on Thursday afternoon.
Health Minister Robin Swann has instructed Trusts to put in place, with immediate effect, the provision of free car parking to HSC staff until 31 March 2021.
Mr Swann said: “As our valued staff enter into a most challenging and pressurised time, I hope that this provides some welcome news.”
The move follows today’s budgetary announcement of additional funding allocated to the Department of Health for free staff car parking until the end of March 2021.
Meanwhile, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced a £19m support fund for taxi drivers and private coach and bus operators.
The support fund recognises the exceptional circumstances that these businesses have faced from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and is to assist with unavoidable overheads and loss of income during this time.
Speaking after the Executive meeting where the support fund was agreed, Minister Mallon said: “Covid-19 has presented many challenges and worries and has been an unprecedented time for everybody not least those in the taxi, private bus and coach industry.
“With the introduction of restrictions from the beginning of the pandemic, affecting schools, hospitality, tourism, sport and many other areas of normal life, these businesses have been severely impacted and many face an uncertain future.
“Over the last few months I have met representatives from these businesses and heard at first-hand how their lives and livelihoods have been affected. I am therefore very pleased today to announce that a £19m Support Fund will open in the next few weeks.”
The proposed scheme for taxis is intended to open in the week beginning 9 November and, subject to securing the necessary approvals, will provide a set amount of £1,500 for each eligible taxi driver who has been available for work since the pandemic started.
It will be a one off payment in recognition of the financial pressures sustained by taxi drivers due to Covid-19 and the additional costs incurred on PPE.
Commenting on the support for taxi drivers, Minister Mallon continued: “I have listened intently to the concerns of taxi drivers over recent months and pledged to do all that I can to help them at this extremely difficult time.
“While some of the larger operators have been able to avail of other support schemes many taxi-drivers have not been eligible for support for their overheads when they have suffered significant downturn in their trade.
“I hope that this new funding of £14m along with the £1.2m that I have already put in place to waive fees for the renewal of taxi vehicle licences will enable drivers to continue to work and therefore be available in the post-Covid recovery period.”
The proposed scheme for private bus and coach operators is intended to open in mid-November and is based on the reserves that licensed bus and coach operators are required to hold in satisfying the requirement of ‘financial standing’.
Subject to securing the necessary approvals, this will provide an amount to each operator of £8,000 for the first vehicle and £4,450 for each additional vehicle.
This funding will provide a contribution to their overhead costs, subject to operators being able to prove their loss of income and the need for the financial support. Payments to eligible operators will be capped at £100,000.
Commenting on the support being made available to the private coach and bus industry the Minister said: “Similar to the taxi industry, they too have suffered an extreme loss of income with the virtual closure of their businesses while continuing to pay overheads.
“I hope that this funding along with the £300,000 provided earlier in the year to waive fees for the renewal of bus vehicle licences will compensate for some of those losses incurred in recent months as a result of the pandemic and will enable these operators to remain in business and be ready for the post-Covid recovery period.”
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