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Deeply regrettable that sole traders and many social enterprises are ineligible for hardship scheme – John Stewart MLA

Ulster Unionist Economy spokesperson, John Stewart MLA, has expressed concern that after believing they would meet the criteria for the hardship scheme being opened today, sole traders and social enterprises are now discovering they are ineligible.

Mr Stewart said:

“The Coronavirus Hardship Grant Application Portal goes live at 6pm on Wednesday evening. While I welcome this vital support for eligible businesses facing hardship, I am deeply frustrated that the Department for the Economy has decided to exclude sole traders & partners, as well as many businesses in the social enterprise sector.

“Sole traders and social enterprises play a vital role in our economy yet they have missed out on every support scheme to date. Many have been relying on this hardship scheme to act as a business lifeline until things return to normal. After believing they would meet the criteria at the weekend they are now discovering that they are ineligible.

“At this morning's meeting of the Economy committee I pressed the Minister on this issue and urged her strongly to look at broadening the support measures to include those who have missed out.

“To every single person who has contacted me about this, some in tears, I can assure them that I will continue to lobby on your behalf to get vital assistance for you and your business and will do everything I can to support you.”

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