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Covid pandemic payment will ‘absolutely’ be extended

The payment of €350 a week is due to expire mid-June.

THE COVID-19 pandemic payment will “absolutely” be extended beyond its expiry date next month, the Minister for Employment has said.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has received over 815,000 applications for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment since it was introduced in March.

Regina Doherty told the Dail that is the equivalent of a four-year caseload in less than two months.

The payment of €350 a week is due to expire mid-June, however Doherty said it “will absolutely have to be extended” beyond that point.

“The payment was introduced to support people’s incomes whilst their normal income was not available to them,” Ms Doherty said.

“We are aware that based on phases of the reopening of society, that’s going to be different times for different people.

“In what shape and form – the decision hasn’t been made yet. It’s under active consideration and the decision will be made in the next couple of weeks.”

There has also been widespread criticism that people over the age of 66 are not eligible for the Covid emergency payment.

TDs from various parties described it as “discriminatory” and “ageist”.

Fianna Fáil’s Cormac Devlin said: “I previously raised the discriminatory aspects of the Wage Subsidy Scheme and Pandemic Unemployment Payment, it is important we see some changes.

“Equally discriminatory is for the over 66s – so will the minister commit to rectifying deficiencies in these scheme to ensure that no one is left behind.”

Sinn Fein’s John Brady said: “Discrimination is rife throughout these payments – we have the issue around the over 66s who have been precluded from the PUP payment.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein’s Padraig Mac Lochlainn raised the issue of workers in the Republic who live in Northern Ireland who cannot access any of the pandemic payments.

“Huge numbers of workers who are resident in Derry, west Tyrone and Fermanagh work, pay their taxes, pay their social insurance in Donegal and make a major contribution to the economy,” Mr Mac Lochlainn added.

“They were left blowing in the wind by yourself and your department, absolutely disgraceful.

“They were told to go across the border to receive one third of what workers who are working by their side paying the same taxes were in receipt of.

“It’s repugnance to the Good Friday Agreement.”

Ms Doherty told the Dail that 464,000 employees have received a payment under the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.

She added: “We are responding to a crisis and what emerges in our supports may not be perfect, but much of it is good.

“There are other measures the department took to help people staying in their homes.

“We extended the fuel allowance and moved benefits to fortnightly rather than a weekly cycle.

“All of these measures were implemented in a short time period.”

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