The Rhondda AM has called for a universal basic income to be implemented to get people through the Coronavirus crisis.
Leanne Wood AM made the calls in plenary after being contacted by scores of worried business owners, hospitality workers, people in unsecure employment and self-employed people.
She said if urgent action was not taken to support all these people who have lost out financially and will continue to lose out amid the outbreak, companies will go out of business, unemployment will rise and people will be plunged into abject poverty.
Speaking during Business Questions in the Senedd, Leanne said: “I'm sure many other Members have, have had scores of messages—if not hundreds—from people who are concerned about the economic impact of coronavirus.
“This was ramped up after the Prime Minister's announcement last night, because people were told not to go to pubs and clubs and restaurants. But pubs and clubs and restaurants have not been told to close, which obviously has implications from an insurance perspective.
“The latest self-isolation advice I think is good—a bit late, but good. But without support, so many of those small businesses are going to go to the wall, as a result of that latest advice.
“So how is support going to be provided to those small businesses? How is support going to be provided to those people who will be forced to take time off from work, but have no other source of income?
“Businesses are going to need help with paying staff, with covering overheads, while they have no customers. The announcement on business rates doesn't cover a lot of businesses in the Rhondda, because they're not paying anyway, even though, for those who are affected, it's welcome.”
She added: “In Ireland, there's been an emergency payment of €203 a week for all employees and self-employed people who've lost employment or business as a result of COVID-19.
“Now, this has been welcomed right throughout that country, and it needs to be considered here as a matter of urgency. The banks had a bailout in 2008. Businesses, the self-employed, and those on zero-hours contracts need a bailout now, of a similar size and scale. I'm talking here billions and not millions.
“Now, I recognise that this is a matter beyond Welsh budgets, but would the Government support a basic income, along these lines? And, if you would, can we have a statement, outlining what discussions you can have with Westminster, to support the rolling out of such a proposal? I'd also like to know what, in the interim, in terms of guarantees, can be offered to businesses, to guard against them going under.”
Leanne also asked what support the government could provide to networks like the Coronavirus Rhondda Community Network she established on Facebook and her website LeanneRhondda.Wales
In reply, Rebecca Evans AM said her cabinet colleague Ken Skates would be addressing queries about the points on payments for anyone affected by the Coronavirus outbreak and said the First Minister would be meeting tomorrow with the third sector to mobilise community action.
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