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Treasury Minister's statement on COVID-19 - 8 January 2021

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08/01/2021

I know that asking the community to stay at home for 21 days will have economic and financial impacts and that is why we have immediately reopened our Salary Support Scheme and the Manx Earnings Replacement Allowance or MERA for short.  

Many of you will be familiar with these schemes.  

In the previous lockdown Salary Support paid out more than £43m and supported 11,000 individuals a month at its peak.  

MERA helped over 1,940 people when it was needed most and to date has paid out £6m. 

The Salary Support Scheme is therefore being re-opened to all business sectors that were able to claim during last year’s period of lockdown. 

It is currently scheduled to be available to cover the current circuit break lockdown, from the 4th to the 31st January 2021. 

The method of claiming remains the same, along with the amount of support, which provides financial assistance to any qualifying business of up to £280 for a full-time equivalent employee per week. 

Applications can be submitted from 1st February but must be made no later than 30 days after the end of the month in which salary payments were made. 

Applications are made online and details of how to apply are available on the Government’s Covid 19 website. 

The Manx Earnings Replacement Allowance – “MERA” – will be payable from Monday 11th January, for an initial three-week period ending on Sunday 31st January. 

MERA will again be available to both employed earners who are made redundant, laid off or put on nil pay by their employer, and those who are self-employed but are prevented from carrying out their work due to the restrictions and who meet the qualifying conditions. 

MERA will be paid at a standard rate of £200 a week and individuals can earn up to £50 a week while continuing to receive MERA. 

Unemployed and self-employed people who are not eligible for MERA may be eligible for jobseeker’s allowance instead. 

Claims are now able to be made online at services.gov.im/mera and anyone who is unable to make their claim online should contact us by phone or email. 

The phone line for both MERA and Salary Support enquiries is 648125. 

On the proviso that this circuit break lockdown works, and that restrictions can be lifted by the end of this month or early February, we can conservatively estimate that the total cost of one month’s support will be between £8m and £10m. 

I should also remind businesses that the Government-backed Disruption Loan Guarantee and Working Capital Loan Schemes are still available and running through Island banks, and we are continuing to support Tourist Accommodation Providers through our Strategic Capacity Scheme. 

However, I recognise that whilst MERA and Salary Support are valuable mechanisms to support pay and income, by themselves they may not provide a solution to provide stability in a longer term lockdown.   

Indeed, I know that many of you will want to get back working and earning as soon as possible, particularly at this time of year, but in order to do so we must get this virus under control.  

My hope is that we can do this quickly and effectively and then consider allowing individuals, trades and professions back to work in an orderly fashion.  

If we cannot do this and the virus spreads rather than diminishes and we cannot get you back to work in a reasonable timeframe, then we will have to review the relevance of our financial support.  

In other words, we are trusting that short, sharp action now will deal with the situation.  

If it doesn’t – we will review the financial support avaailable. 

As I have said previously, Government cannot think for everybody nor can it bring forward a financial package for every set of circumstances, and I know that this is not easy for some at this present time. 

It is therefore imperative that we do not lose sight of the fact that the health of the nation is inextricably linked with its financial wellbeing.  

By making every effort to obey the rules, to stay at home as much as you possibly can and by taking precautions when you are out in public, you are not only protecting lives and other people’s health - you are also protecting people’s jobs and businesses.  

Last year, the nation rose up to its responsibilities and I am asking you again now and in the immediate aftermath of this circuit breaker to once again look to support our locally produced goods, our local shops, our restaurants, pubs, retailers and businesses in the same spirit we did last summer. 

We must be a community, working together with a common goal, to extinguish the virus threat, protect health and get our economy moving again.