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Pandemic Unemployment Payment rates to remain in place until 31 March

Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme rates will also remain in place.

Image: Shutterstock/Vladyslav Starozhylov

Updated Jan 6th 2021, 5:47 PM

SOCIAL PROTECTION MINISTER Heather Humphreys has confirmed that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) will remain in place at its current rates until at least 31 March.

The proposal was approved by Cabinet this afternoon.

The PUP remains open to new entrants and is paid at four rates – €203, €250, €300 and €350. The rate paid is linked to your prior earnings.

The government originally planned to reduce these rates on 1 February. However, it was previously indicated that this would not happen if the pandemic situation worsened. 

Speaking following today’s Cabinet meeting, Humphreys said today’s announcement will “help to avoid unnecessary anxiety and worry both for those workers already in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and also for those who will need to access it as a result of the latest restrictions announced today”.

“When the Pandemic Unemployment Payment was introduced last March, it was intended to be in place for just a 12-week period.

“As we all know the virus has had a much longer lasting impact both in Ireland and globally that any of us initially anticipated.”

Details of new restrictions were confirmed today for schools, creches, construction, travel and retail.

This week, PUP payments valued at €99 million were issued to 335,600 people, an increase of more than 20% since Christmas week.

Over €5 billion has been paid out in PUP to date since it was introduced in March last year.

The nearly 58,000 increase in claims reflects an increase in the number of workers who have lost their jobs in recent weeks as a result of business closures that followed the tightening of public health restrictions.

The sectors with the highest number of people in receipt of the payment are: accommodation and food service activities (97,798 claimants, up from 74,101 before Christmas); wholesale and retail trade (46,853 up from 40,406) and other sectors like hairdressers and beauty salons (30,221, up from 28,099).

EWSS

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe today announced that the current rates of subsidy provided by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) will also remain in place until 31 March.

“The government have agreed that additional public health restrictions will be in place for the coming weeks – but it is important that employers have the option of retaining their staff so that they may respond and recover quickly when these temporary restrictions are lifted,” Donohoe said.

He added that nearly €4.5 billion worth of payments have been made via wage subsidies “to sustain businesses and help people to manage financially in the midst of these very challenging times”.

Under plans agreed by Cabinet today, childcare services are to remain open but only for vulnerable groups and children of essential workers, until at least the end of January.

Schools are set to stay closed but Leaving Cert students will attend three days a week. Schools will remain closed until at least the end of the month.

Non-essential construction projects are also set to shut down from Friday evening until the end the month. Construction deemed “essential” includes health projects, schools, social housing and certain other projects.

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The click-and-collect exemption for non-essential retailers will also cease.

With reporting by Christina Finn and Órla Ryan

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