‘Criteria must change’ says MLA as some Northern Ireland taxi drivers could miss out on £1,500 grant

Image credit: Karl Black

All Northern Ireland taxi drivers should receive the £1,500 support package urges Sinn Féin MLA, as cabbies who suspended taxi insurance look set to miss out.

Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has said the criteria for a COVID-19 support payment for taxi drivers should be changed urgently so all drivers can receive the support they need.

The call comes after Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon opened up a £14million financial support scheme for taxi-drivers in Northern Ireland on 13 November.

The bespoke scheme provides a one-off payment of £1,500 to eligible taxi drivers, under the Taxi Driver (Coronavirus, Financial Assistance) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020.

However for cabbies to qualify for the grant there is a strict eligibility criteria attached.

Cabbies must have been working or available for work as a self-employed taxi driver between 22 March and 30 September 2020 and hold valid taxi hire and reward insurance.

Some taxi drivers have tried to lower their expenditure by reducing their vehicle insurance cover whilst not working. The move to reduce overheads whilst work-levels have been low during the pandemic means those cabbies may not receive the payment.

Martina Anderson said: "At a special meeting of the Infrastructure Committee today we heard directly from taxi drivers about the extreme financial pressure they are under and the urgent need to get support.

"Representatives from the industry set out clearly how some drivers were forced to suspend their taxi insurance in order to have money to be able to put food on the table to feed their families. The choice was that stark.

"It doesn't make sense that they should now be denied the COVID-19 support grant from the Department of Infrastructure for making that choice.

"The fact that the drivers who are most in need are being denied this payment is totally at odds with the concept of the rationale for the grant.

"The criteria needs to be changed urgently so money can get into the pockets of taxi drivers who need it most."

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