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Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon is seeking further powers to open another financial assistance scheme for taxi drivers. Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan had asked the Minister to help taxi drivers to be able to access much-needed COVID-19 financial supports.  Mr Boylan said "After meeting with taxi drivers and companies, it is clear many drivers have still not received payment from the Department for Infrastructure's taxi driver financial assistance scheme.

“On top of this, drivers who took a short insurance break during lockdown are still denied eligibility for support and this needs to be changed. The payment itself is considered as paltry and insubstantial by many drivers, who have suffered hardship since the onset of COVID-19 and need additional support.

Mr Boylan saysTaxi operators are also frustrated with the lack of support from the Department at this time and are crying out for financial assistance.

Minister Mallon has written to the First and deputy First Minsters seeking a further Determination & Designation under the Financial Assistance (Northern Ireland) Act 2009, to facilitate the development of a second financial assistance scheme for taxi drivers.

Minister Mallon said: “This pandemic continues to present very real and worrying challenges for many people.  The financial assistance scheme was designed following feedback from taxi industry representatives that drivers were struggling with fixed overhead costs in the face of a significant reduction in customers. 

"Over 3,500 drivers have already benefited from the first scheme, with the remaining applications continuing to be processed as quickly as possible. However some drivers were not able to benefit from the first scheme. I recognise and am sympathetic to the fact that, while some of those drivers did not have continuous insurance and could not therefore avail of the financial support, they still incurred overheads for part of the year.   

"I am also mindful that the current and ongoing restrictions on retail/hospitality continue to impact on all taxi drivers financially making it difficult for them to cover the costs they continue to incur in doing their job."

The Infrastructure minister is meeting with the sector next week to work with them on delivering another scheme urgently to help with their ongoing overhead costs at this difficult time. Minister Mallon concluded "This scheme is in addition to the support available from the Self Employment Income Support Scheme which provides 70% or 80% of average previous profits and the newly self-employed scheme. I am committed to helping those in need, particularly when taxi drivers are being excluded from some of the support that other businesses are being provided with because of the impact of the increased restrictions.”

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