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Construction workers face cost of restrictions as PUP recipients rise to nearly 400,000

Almost 400,000 people will receive the PUP tomorrow, an increase of 18.7% on last week.

Image: Shutterstock/Zerbor

Updated Jan 11th 2021, 7:57 PM

NEARLY 400,000 PEOPLE are receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment this week, an increase of 18.7%.

398,000 people will receive the payment this week, up from last week’s 335,599, with wholesale and retail seeing the highest increase of PUP recipients of any sector.

The payments issued this week come to a total of €118.04 million.

In the construction sector, the number of workers receiving PUP has risen from 23,080 to 32,151. 

The Department of Social Protection has said that the number of people in the construction sector receiving the payment is expected to further rise next week in the wake of new restrictions implemented that limit construction activity.

Non-essential construction sites were ordered to close from 6pm last Friday, which saw the vast majority of construction work stop.

Some construction deemed essential, including pandemic-related health projects, social housing, emergency maintenance and education, were permitted to stay open.

An estimated 200,000 direct and indirect construction workers are no longer at work due to the restrictions.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphries has said that the “decisions taken by the Government to impose increased restrictions on sectors such as construction, retail and education were not taken lightly”.

“But these decisions are necessary in order to protect lives, livelihoods and our frontline workers,” Humphries said.

For Wholesale and Retail workers, 65,300 are receiving the PUP this week, an increase on 46,853 last week.

Of all sectors, Accommodation and Food Service activities account for the highest number of PUP recipients, with 106,387 people in line to receive the payment tomorrow.

This is followed by Wholesale and Retail with the second-highest numbers, and Administrative and Support Service Activities with the third.

Humphries said that the figures “outline the stark impact the Covid-19 pandemic continues to have on the labour market”.

“It is essential that every individual and family follows the health guidelines if we are to suppress the virus,” she said.

“Now more than ever, we need to stay at home as much as possible, limit our contacts, maintain our social distance and wash our hands. The more we comply with the guidelines, the sooner we can begin to re-open the economy.”

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The Department of Social Protection has said that workers who do not have any options for childcare are eligible to apply for the PUP.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection Claire Kerrane TD welcomes this. 

“I welcome that the Department for Social Protection has this evening confirmed that people who are unable to work due to childcare and schools being closed will now be eligible to receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment,” she said. 
 
“Far too many parents and families across the state have been put in impossible situations in needing to go to work to put bread on the table while trying to manage childcare. This was particularly challenging for lone parents where families, especially grandparents, have not been able to assist due to Covid restrictions.
 
“These families were then put in the unacceptable position of being told that they would not receive the PUP. The Government simply turned their back on these families.
 
“I welcome that this policy has now changed. However, I am concerned that the Government persisted for so long with this deeply flawed policy, which has caused considerable financial hardship for families.
 
“The Government must learn from this and ensure that in the future it takes a more compassionate and thought out approach to policies like this. Ordinary workers and families cannot be expected to suffer due to poorly planned policies like this again,” said Kerrane. 

Last week, Cabinet approved a proposal to maintain the payment at its current rates until at least 31 March.

The PUP is paid at four different rates - €203, €250, €300 and €350 – which are based on a person’s previous earnings.

Recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment or the Covid-19 wage subsidy in 2020 are due to learn this week how much income tax they owe.

PAYE workers will receive a preliminary statement of tax liability for last year on the Revenue website on Friday. 

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