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Home News 'Half of NI taxi drivers' fail to claim emergency funds

‘Half of NI taxi drivers’ fail to claim emergency funds

Almost half of Northern Ireland's taxi drivers failed to apply for an emergency support grant set up by Stormont.

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Northern Ireland – Payments of £1,500 were offered to drivers to help with their overheads following a massive drop in businesses during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

More than 9,000 taxi drivers were eligible to apply but about 5,000 applications were received.

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Details were revealed at a Department of Infrastructure meeting on Wednesday.

The scrutiny committee heard from five taxi operators who are now seeking financial help for those businesses which run cabs.

Stephen Anton, from Fonacab, said there were a number of reasons why more taxi drivers did not apply for the grant.

Many had no access to computers to process the applications, he said, while others were unaware of the financial support scheme, which was open for a fortnight in November.

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He said many taxi drivers had not returned to work and, as a result, operators have been forced out of business.

‘Coffers now empty’

Eamon O’Donnell, from North West Taxi Proprietors, said 30% of their drivers had quit and will be hard to replace in the current economic climate.

Taxi operators provided an essential service to health workers and other key staff during the lockdowns, he said.

They were also on hand when families had to be moved into emergency accommodation overnight by statutory agencies.

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In many cases, “coffers are now empty” and they need a meaningful support scheme to save firms from closure, Mr O’Donnell said.

On 29 October, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said a £14m package would go directly to taxi drivers.

She confirmed it would be a one-off cash payment of £1,500 to each taxi driver.

Some drivers have criticised this amount, describing it as “a go-away payment”.

They said this would not go far enough to cover lost earnings during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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