Cork Chamber has set out its vision for sustainable economic recovery as its members report an expected 43% drop in revenue this year.
The business representative group, which has 1,200 members who employ more than 100,000 people, has called for deferring VAT, PRSI, loan repayments, utility charges and rent, as well as the provision of additional sector-specific supports. They say such steps can "provide a lifeline to businesses and save jobs".
The Covid-19 shutdown has left thousands out of work and has many businesses on the brink.
Cork Chamber CEO, Conor Healy, said it is important to recognise the steps already taken by Government to sustain business, but added "it is clear that further steps must be taken" to minimise the long-term economic damage.
New data from the Chamber shows just 18% of Cork businesses are fully open. A further 31% have shut their front office and are working from home, with 23% of businesses operating in a scaled-down capacity. The remaining 28% have fully shut down.
Mr Healy said: "We have an opportunity, through strong ambition equivalent to a contemporary Marshall Plan, to lay the foundations for a stable and better economy and society and to leave a legacy of resilience and sustainability for generations to come."
The Chamber has mapped out proposals for short, medium and long-term interventions.
In the short-term, it has identified the need for "deeper cashflow interventions", including deferring VAT and PRSI, and waiving commercial rates, mortgage and loan repayments for six months.
Utility charges and rent would also be deferred for an initial six-month period, while sector-specific supports could target the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors, which have been particularly badly hit.
Mr Healy continued: "In the short to medium-term, construction must be at the forefront of infrastructure-led stimulus, with housing and sustainable mobility as a focus."
This would include the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy, significant projects like roads, schools, hospitals and the Cork event centre, and also investment in greenways, walkways, parks, woodlands and other amenities.
"They are key to recovery, mental health and long-term quality of life. Quality, people-focused amenity must always be within a reasonable radius of home. There is no reason why Cork can’t be Europe’s green capital," Mr Healy said.
In the medium to longer term, a "strong indigenous tourism campaign and investment in quality of life infrastructure" are identified as crucial steps, as is Ireland's support of the EU Green Deal and the continuation of the renewable energy subsidy scheme.
Finally, he said, it is essential that the Government implements a phased roll-back of supports at the point of recovery: "A steady scaling-down rather than an abrupt stop point is the only way to get our economy back in gear."