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Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus

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Northern Ireland Executive Ministers and their officials have over the past 72 hours been involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.

Farmers experiencing difficulties filling in their 2020 Single Applications during the Covid-19 emergency can avail of a special helpline to assist them, the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots announced today.

With just 11 days left until the closing date for 2020 Single Application and Environmental Farming Scheme Tranche 4, Minister Poots urged farmers to complete their applications immediately to avoid incurring a financial penalty.

However he acknowledged that in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, some farmers might need to use his Department’s enhanced telephone advice service to help them complete their applications.

Minister Poots revealed: “In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, my Department enhanced our telephone advice service to help farmers submit their applications and I’m pleased to announce that this service will also be available over the Bank Holiday weekend between 9.00am and 4.00pm (8th, 9th and 10th May), where staff will be available to provide advice and assist farmers in completing their application over the phone.”

If anyone is experiencing difficulty with their applications, they are advised to contact the Single Application Advisory Service on 0300 200 7848, or via email to [email protected] A team of skilled advisors will be available to provide advice and assist farmers to submit their applications over the phone.

The announcement of a UK-wide package to address admissions issues for students applying for university was welcomed today by the Economy Minister Diane Dodds.

However Minister Dodds called for more funding to address wider financial pressures faced by Northern Ireland’s universities during the Covid-19 emergency.

The Minister said: “Our local higher education sector is a key contributor to the local economy and will be of vital importance to our economic recovery after this pandemic. We will need the UK Government to commit further funding in the coming months to address the specific financial pressures our sector is facing. This must include measures to stabilise the sector and support the important field of research and development.”

The UK Government measures enable higher education providers to apply for their support packages developed in response to Covid-19, including business loan support schemes.

Further guidance has been published as to how providers should access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to safeguard staff jobs and tuition fee payments will also be bought forward to help universities better manage financial risks over the autumn.

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