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Minister signals change to pandemic unemployment payment on the way

Some 95,800 people are now receiving the reduced payment of €203 per week.

Image: Shutterstock

Updated Jul 13th 2020, 8:15 PM

PUBLIC EXPENDITURE MINISTER Michael McGrath has said there cannot be an “overnight cliff-edge end” to pandemic unemployment payment (PUP), but signalled that changes will be announced next week.

Speaking after Cabinet today, where the minister said there was a discussion about the government’s July Stimulus, McGrath said the payment had been a vital lifeline for hundreds of thousands of people.

The Department of Social Protection said today that the number of people in receipt of the PUP has dropped 42% since the peak at the start of May.

Today payments valued at €106.8 million in total were issued to 345,000 people. This represents a decrease of 67,300 on the number paid last week – the largest weekly decrease to date – and a decrease of 252,400 since 5 May when 598,000 people received the payment.

In the past seven days, 44,400 people have closed their claim for the payment and 19,800 will be receiving their final payment tomorrow.

McGrath noted there are now two different rates of payment in relation to PUP, as well as those that lost their jobs prior to mid-March.

“The fact that anyone that lost their job up to mid March is on a rate of €203 and under the current policy, which was set up under the previous government, from 10 August anyone losing their job also goes on €203. We currently have 345,000 on the PUP but across two rates some on €203, some on €350, and we have about 220,000 people on the live register and they are on the standard unemployment rate so we need to be fair to everyone,” he said, signalling that there would be movement towards an equalisation of payments.

He said the payment was introduced in emergency circumstances, but the economy is gradually reopening, he pointed out, with the numbers on the payment falling quite significantly.

“That trend is likely to continue, overall people who are on the PUP in particular, and the €350 rate is falling all the time, we need to manage that, and acknowledge how important it is as a basic income to individuals and families,” he said.
He said the payment should not end overnight, but next Monday, a fair and balanced package will be announced.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said it is “heartening to see that the phased approach set out in the Roadmap to Recovery is now being reflected in the number of people returning to work”.

“The government is now finalising its work on preparing the July Economic stimulus package that will drive the way for an economic recovery. I am confident this will help the thousands of workers and businesses who were badly impacted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

This is the second week of the two-tiered payment structure for people receiving the payment. Some 95,800 people whose average earnings before the pandemic were less than €200 gross per week will receive the €203 rate of payment this week. The majority of people (249,800) will continue to receive the €350 rate of payment.

There are now over 66,900 employers who have registered with the Revenue Commissioners for the Temporary Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS).

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The department said an estimated 405,000 employees are currently being supported by the scheme having received a subsidy in their most recent pay period.

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