From DUP <[email protected]>
Subject COVID-19 News Update - 25th April
Date April 25, 2020 4:41 PM
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DUP Update - 25th April 2020
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** First Minister commends local efforts meeting PPE challenge

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Party Leader Arlene Foster MLA speaking in Bangor earlier this week.

The Party Leader Arlene Foster MLA has thanked those involved in assisting with efforts to produce Personal Protective Equipment this week.

Earlier in the week she visited Bangor with local MLA Gordon Dunne to see how Dougan Contracts and AG Electrical were working together to produce face visors for healthcare staff, whilst yesterday she paid a visit to Donaghcloney Orange Hall to give her thanks and support to Warrior Scrubs, a local effort that is making scrubs for frontline NHS workers and carers. Local MP Carla Lockhart organised the visit and took the opportunity to donate a significant amount of fabric to the group.

The First Minister said, "I am a firm believer that when everyone in Northern Ireland works together, particularly in times of crisis, we are at our best. What I witnessed in Donaghcloney, and in towns and villages across the country, is further evidence of the wonderful people who live here.

Everyone involved in these initiatives deserve our thanks and our support. As a Government we are doing all we can to help the people of Northern Ireland through this difficult period, but we could not do as much without people power working with us.”

** Daily Media Briefings Continue
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Economy Minister Diane Dodds addressing Thursday's media briefing
Friday's Media Briefing ([link removed])
Tuesday's Media Briefing ([link removed])
Daily media briefings from the Northern Ireland Executive continue and were addressed this week by both the First Minister and the Economy Minister Diane Dodds.

This week - Ministers announced:
* An update on the grant scheme for businesses
+ 17,100 payments have been issued under the Small Business Grant Scheme.
+ Over 2,000 applications have been made to the £25,000 grant scheme. Some businesses should have recieved payments yesterday.

* Establishment of the Tourism Recovery Steering Group.

* The Executive is considering establishing a £40million hardship fund to support those small businesses not covered by 'rateable categories'. Further information on this will be announced soon.

* Outlined how vocational qualifications will be awarded to learners in Northern Ireland.

* The Executive has agreed to lift restrictions on visiting graveyards

* Local Government Environmental Health Officers will help increase the testing capacity.

* Furloughed employees entitled to statutory maternity and paternity pay, statutory adoption pay and statutory shared parental pay will have the amounts they recieve calculated based on their full pay and not the 80% furlough rate.

* Livestock marts will re-open on a gradual basis from 27th April.

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First Minister Arlene Foster announcing the lifting of restrictions on visiting graveyards. However she stressed that social distancing and handwashing practices must be maintained to ensure safety.

** 12 month rates relief vital for recovery

DUP MLA for Mid Ulster and Assembly Chief Whip Keith Buchanan has called for the business rates holiday to be extended for 12 months.

Mr Buchanan was speaking after The Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP) published a report examining the economic impact of Covid-19 on Council areas across all the UK regions and indicated Mid Ulster could be the worst hit in Northern Ireland and one of the worst hit across the whole United Kingdom.

Commenting Mr Buchanan said, “Mid Ulster is the engineering and heavy manufacturing hub of Northern Ireland and supports thousands of jobs. For these companies to weather the Covid-19 crisis, they need to be helped navigate the recovery as well.

Whilst businesses in the rest of the United Kingdom have been given a rates holiday for 12 months, the Finance Minister in Northern Ireland has only given a three-month break. For over three weeks we have been asking him to extend this to 12 months.

This CPP report should cause him to think again. Businesses are struggling with cash flow. Being able to remove their rates bill from their outgoings would be a massive help.”

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