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Minister for the Economy Diane Dodds has approved the re-allocation of £30million from within her Departmental budget to address emerging COVID-19 budget pressures.

This was part of the June Monitoring exercise in which Departments have been given special dispensation to re-allocate non-ring fenced budget to fund emerging COVID-19 pressures.

The funding, made of up almost £24million in resource/day-to-day funding and £6million in capital funding, will focus firmly on the recovery and rebuild phases of the Department’s response to the pandemic.

The Minister said: “While the pandemic was, and remains, primarily a public health matter, there is no doubt that it has caused an economic crisis.

“Up to now my emphasis has been on the immediate reaction to the pandemic, largely focused on assisting businesses of all sizes to address cash flow difficulties, including unconventional grant schemes totalling £410million, in addition to other support measures from the Executive and UK Government.

“The time is now right to look medium and longer term and focus on the recovery and rebuild phases of my Department’s response to the pandemic. This is fully described in the Department’s COVID-19 Response Business Plan 2020/21 which is published on the Department’s website.

“I have allocated £13.6million to address pressures in skills and education, including focussing resources on apprenticeship and training programmes and on further and higher education. I have also allocated a further £9.6million towards initiatives to help businesses that are vulnerable but viable, through support measures to be delivered by Invest NI, Tourism NI and InterTradeIreland.

“Among the capital re-allocations that I have agreed is funding for vocational education IT and support to vulnerable but viable businesses to help them change how they work.”

Commenting on the labour market statistics that were released this morning, the Minister said: “The quarterly employment survey figures released this morning cover a period that pre-dates COVID-19 related restrictions and therefore do not fully take into account the full impact the virus has had on employment. However, we can see a significant increase of almost 10% in the claimant count for May 2020, bringing it to its highest point since 2013.

“These figures make for difficult reading and confirm the scale of the economic task ahead. More than six years of progress on employment has been undone in a matter of weeks. This is why I am taking the actions that I have, including the re-allocation of almost £30million from within my budget, and will continue to do all I can to progress the recovery.”