On Wednesday, ExCo agreed a further set of economic support measures for the community and local businesses, in light of the ongoing pandemic.
Having conducted detailed data-gathering and analysis into the existing and previous support schemes, to determine value for money, levels of uptake and local impact, members of the Executive Council were asked to consider the renewal, extension or cancellation of previous programs. Factors taken into consideration included the complexities of the global situation and its bearing on individuals and industries throughout the Islands, as informed by the perspectives of local stakeholders.
ExCo has therefore agreed the following, with minor changes as outlined below:
• To extend the Job Retention Furlough Scheme, Self-Employed Income Supplement Scheme and Business Grant Scheme until 30 September 2022
• To approve the renewal of the TRIP and BFSAI TRIP schemes from 1 October 2021 until 30 April 2022
• To defer the implementation of the Bounce Back Scheme until July 2022
• To cancel the Unemployment Scheme from midnight on 31 July 2021
• To cancel the Deferred Loan Scheme from midnight on 30 September 2021
• To reconfirm budget allocations for further work on initiatives related to enhanced science facilities in the Falkland Islands, Cape Pembroke Lighthouse visitor facilities, upgrading and maintaining the pontoons at the public jetty and the development of high-end tourism facilities on the Islands.
What has changed?
• Extension of Job Retention Furlough Scheme and Self-Employed Income Supplement Scheme
Both schemes have been extended until 30 September 2022 for businesses still affected by the pandemic and can also be used to provide assistance to those required or advised by FIG to self-isolate due to Covid-19.
• Extension of Business Grant Retention Scheme
This scheme is designed to help businesses survive a pandemic related revenue downturn by providing assistance for fixed costs. The scheme will be extended until 30 September 2022.
• Renewal of the TRIP and BFSAI TRIP schemes
The original aim of both schemes was to stimulate domestic tourism in order to help sustain jobs and operational capacity due to the pandemic and lack of international tourism. Both schemes have been successful, however feedback from service providers highlighted some areas where changes could be made to improve the offering and to simplify the administrative aspects of both schemes.
Some of the details are still to be fully defined and will be publicised prior to the start of the schemes, but the changes agreed to by ExCo are as follows:
BFSAI TRIP will be amended so that vouchers can also be used for meals and accommodation at the 50% redemption level, in addition to being used for experiences at the 100% redemption level
The 50% Concordia Bay ferry subsidy will be cancelled, due to minimal uptake for the previous schemes
o Passengers will be encouraged to book FIGAS flights on off-peak travel dates by offering greater subsidies for travel outside of peak times compared to those offered at peak times
To help assist with further refinements to both schemes ahead of the launch date, the government will run a survey for people to provide feedback on their experiences of the initial TRIP and BFSAI TRIP schemes in August 2021. The input people provide will be used to help develop the final versions of the renewed schemes.
• Deferral of the Bounce Back Scheme
This scheme provides a small grant for businesses to cover ‘start up’ expenses and help them to bounce back when international tourism resumes. The scheme was due to start in July 2021, but at the current time it does not appear that we will be able to have a normal tourism season in 2021/22. Therefore, the scheme will be deferred until the 2022/23 season, with the possibility of earlier implementation subject to market conditions.
• Cancellation of the Unemployment Scheme
This scheme was targeted at employees made redundant due to the pandemic and was originally designed in April 2020 with ‘extended lockdown’ in mind. Very few people applied for the scheme and the last application was made in July 2020. Therefore, as there are no active claims and the Falkland Islands has not required an ‘extended lockdown’, the scheme will be cancelled from midnight on 31 July 2021.
• Cancellation of the Deferred Loan Scheme
This scheme was intended to encourage tourism operators to invest in capital improvements, however the interest in the scheme was minimal and ultimately no businesses benefited from the scheme. In recognition of the fact that there are other grant programmes for capital improvements available through FITB, it has been agreed to cancel the scheme from midnight on 30 September 2021.
• In addition, ExCo has reconfirmed commitments in relation to further work on initiatives related to the Cape Pembroke Lighthouse visitor facilities, enhanced science facilities in the Islands, upgrading of the free-standing pontoons at the Public Jetty; and development of high end tourism facilities on the Islands.
MLA Mark Pollard, Portfolio Lead for Tourism, said: “The government has looked in detail at the financial support programs that it put in place last year to help mitigate the impact of Covid-19. We have said from the start that we would support both our people and our economy throughout the pandemic, and this is a commitment that we continue to uphold. Knowing that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, we have looked in great detail at each of the previous measures, in order to determine where changes needed to be made.
“Where schemes are ending, we have made sure that there is adequate support in place elsewhere, and where schemes are changing this has been done in response to feedback from service providers as well as data analysis. While there are some further practical considerations to be made, we hope that people can feel confident about the way forward in terms of the next twelve months. As before, we have done our best to take a medium to longer term view of what we need to emerge the other side of the pandemic in the best possible standing, although if there is a need to implement shorter term changes, due to new challenges or opportunities, then we will consider these too.
“One of our most successful initiatives, both from the consumer and industry perspective, was the TRIP scheme, so I hope that people are pleased to see it return. These will be subject to further fine tuning prior to launch in October, so I encourage everyone to complete the survey in August, so that we have as much detail as possible to help shape the final versions of each scheme and ensure that they prove equally, if not more, successful this time.”