Taxi drivers in Northern Ireland set for SECOND vital £1,500 grant to cover expenses during pandemic
Updated: Feb 12, 2021
The Northern Ireland Infrastructure Minister has today received support for plans to provide a further financial assistance scheme to the taxi industry worth £1,500 to each eligible driver.
The new scheme will provide financial assistance to taxi-drivers whose insurance did not cover the full six month period of the existing scheme and will provide further assistance for all drivers from 1 October until the end of this financial year.
On 13 November the first £14million Taxi Driver Financial Assistance Scheme was launched for two weeks, closing on 27 November.
The scheme was accessed by over 4,100 eligible cabbies, each handed a one-off payment of £1,500.
Controversially though, the grant was made dependent on the drivers' expenses incurred during the period 22 March 2020 up to 30 September 2020. This meant drivers who cancelled or downgraded their taxi vehicle insurance to save on costs during the pandemic missed out on the first grant.
Minister Mallon said: “This pandemic continues to present very real and worrying challenges for many people. Recognising this I am bringing in a further financial assistance scheme for taxi-drivers. This means that drivers who have benefitted from the first £1,500 scheme will be eligible to apply for a further £1,500 towards unavoidable overhead costs.
“The first scheme provided payments of £1,500 to over 4,100 taxi drivers, with some 90% of applications being processed for payment by the end of this week. The remaining applications unfortunately did not meet the criteria for the scheme due to discontinuous insurance cover.
“I understand why some of these drivers changed their insurance so they could save money when they could not get any work. I have always been focused on helping those in need and that is why the second scheme will provide a payment to them based on the period of time that registered drivers had the relevant insurance to drive a taxi.”
The Minister added: “This scheme will open in early February once all of the required regulations are in place. As I demonstrated with the first financial assistance scheme, my priority is to get the scheme opened as quickly as possible and for processing and payments to be made to eligible taxi-drivers without delay. My Department will publish further details and ensure that steps are put in place to ensure clear communication with drivers as quickly as possible.”
Details about eligibility requirements and how to apply will be made available as soon as possible.
Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan welcomed early indications that taxi drivers were set to receive an additional COVID-19 support payment. Boylan said: "Following a meeting between representatives of the taxi industry and the Infrastructure minister, taxi drivers have indicated that an additional COVID-19 support payment will be made to them.
"The drivers said the minister told them an additional payment of £1,500 will be made and she will also review the issue of drivers who suspended their taxi insurance not being able to access the previous scheme and I will continue to raise this with the minister to ensure they are treated the same as other drivers.
"These moves will be welcomed by drivers, many of whom are severely struggling financially due to the ongoing necessary COVID-19 restrictions.
"I will continue to engage with the minister to ensure any payments are made promptly and that taxi drivers get the support they need as soon as possible."