Businesses operating in the events, exhibitions and trade show sectors have expressed their disappointment at a new Government scheme designed to help them survive through the pandemic. 

Announced on Tuesday, the Covid-19 Business Aid Scheme will offer firms whose turnover has fallen at least 75% due to Covid-19 restrictions grants of up to €8,000.

The support will be spread equally over two quarters. 

The €60m fund is designed to reach businesses that do not qualify for assistance under the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme or tourism support funds, including those in the events, exhibitions and trade show sectors. 

But the representative organisations for these so-called "orphaned" firms say the scheme is totally inadequate and will not make a significant difference.  

"We were offered crumbs and we don't understand why we are so different to SMEs supported by the CRSS," said Garret Buckley, chairperson of the Irish Exhibition Organisers' Association. 

Mr Buckley said the industry had expected that the new scheme announced by the Tanaiste would be similar to the CRSS, where qualifying firms can claim as much as €5,000 a week to cover their fixed costs. 

He said exhibition companies had tried to pivot their businesses to online and virtual events, but added that it is clear that for many events there is a need for people to be able to meet face to face. 

"There is desperation coming into it now," he said. 

Mr Buckley added that the sector, which employs 25,000 people here, was the first to have to shut down last March, and looks like it will be the last to reopen. 

He said governments in other countries where the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out is proceeding faster than in Ireland are giving event organisers a timeline for when they will be able to resume holding events, but so far the same things hasn't been forthcoming here. 

Representatives of the sector met with the Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Robert Troy, today to express their concerns and outline their position. 

"While we acknowledge there are tons of things out there (to help businesses), none of them are hitting the mark for our members," said Roisin Callaghan, spokesperson for Events Industry Ireland. 

She said the new scheme amounts to the equivalent of €350 per week for businesses. 

"You may as well be on the PUP for that," she said, adding that firms in the sector want to keep trading. 

"The Government has said we can't work but they are not helping us to not work."

Ms Callaghan said most firms have now eaten into their reserves and yet the line of sight for the ending of the pandemic is shifting constantly. 

In a survey carried out last April by the association, 75% of respondents said their firms would o't last more than a year of closure and that anniversary is fast approaching.