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Treasury Minister’s statement on COVID-19 - 28 April 2020

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Since I last spoke to you, I am pleased to say that we have made significant progress with our support schemes and thousands of people will now be benefiting from the structures that we have put in place.

We continue to improve these schemes where we believe that shortcomings have been identified or they have not operated as efficiently as intended.

We have added more sectors of the economy to the Business Support Scheme and the Salary Support Scheme, we have relaxed the rules for the self-employed and we have now relaxed the rules for wage support to include single employee businesses.

These changes mean that we have widened the base of support that was available, we have cleared backlogs and we have improved our processing times.

Over £6.3m of support has so far been paid out to small businesses and the self-employed through the Business Support Scheme.

2,100 small businesses and individuals have benefited from this £3,000 payment and by the end of the week hundreds more will have been processed.

We expect to pay out over £7m of wage support payments for March. We have already distributed £3.8m of wage support for the March payroll to 569 business with 4,713 employees and have a further 405 applications to process. I expect the bulk of these to be processed this week.

The change in eligibility rules for single employee businesses will now see additional applications being made for wage support providing a further £5.3m of wage support over the three month period.

We are supporting the wages of thousands of employees across the Island to a maximum of £1,120 per employee per month keeping jobs going and business functioning.
The wage support scheme will support our local economy through business payrolls for March, April and May.

We are also supporting business with cash flow by deferring payments.

We have deferred £11.8m of quarterly due VAT income.

We have deferred £2.4m of income tax revenue.

And those of you who have fallen outside the business support net are turning to Social Security for assistance.

Our social security payments are running efficiently.

We have so far awarded the Manx Earnings Replacement Allowance of £200 per week to 1,667 individuals.

We are expecting that the MERA will pay out much needed support of £4m over the 12 weeks of the scheme.

As MERA is payable two weeks in arrears we have decided that MERA will provide a further 14 days payment after a person's return to work thus allowing allow support to continue to be whilst they await their first wage.

As well as MERA, Social Security Division have seen increases in other benefits too.

1400 people are now claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.

This is an increase of approximately 250% since mid-February this year, and we continue to receive between 20 and 30 claims a day.
Whilst it has taken some time for the team to get through this huge influx in claims I am pleased to note that claims are now being processed in approximately 5 working days.

As the situation continues to develop, we are turning our attention as to what will happen when our MERA and Wage support schemes finish
Some of you will have been able to return to work and be in a position to earn a wage and so will no longer require support.
I recognise though that for many that will not be the case and, dependent on how we are able to phase our return to normality, will require ongoing support beyond these end dates.

We are actively considering how and to whom the existing schemes might be extended. We are working closely with our colleagues in the Department for Enterprise to understand more broadly what we need to do to further support the economy and provide as much opportunity for work and employment as possible.
The impact on our economy and indeed the global economy is very uncertain and we are forecasting that there will a significant reduction in the level of income that Government receives.

In order to protect our financial stability against uncertain financial forecasting, amendments to the Loans Act 1974 were approved by the House of Keys and the Legislative Council that provide us with flexibility to borrow to meet our liquidity needs in the medium term where this is required.
Once the amendments to the Bill have received Royal Ascent, I intend to request permission from Tynwald to set in place a facility that would allow us to borrow up to £250m in the short to medium term.

This is a prudent measure and will prevent us needing to access reserves that are invested in the stock markets and which are currently undervalued.

As we move forward, there will be a need for further financial planning and it is clear that we must re-examine and refocus our financial plans for the current year.

I intend to bring an update to this year’s budget to Tynwald in July, setting out our plans in more detail.

It is vital that we have a thriving economy, not just for Government revenues, not just for businesses, but for society as a whole.

In that respect we must of course recognise that amongst the gloom there are many companies continuing to work incredibly hard.

Some businesses have written to me recently to tell me how with Government support they have managed to keep their staff and improve their business models.

Others have told me that they are managing without Government support and of course some of our businesses have played an increasingly important role during the crisis.
Thank you to all of you working so hard to keep your businesses and the economy going.

We are paying millions of pounds out in support of our community.

We are continuing to work hard across the community to find a way through this and of course we have taken the first steps to getting the economy back on its feet.
Together we are making progress.