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Exchequer spent estimated €17.1 billion as a result of Covid-19 in pandemic's first year

The Comptroller and Auditor General annual report was published today.

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THE TOTAL DIRECT expenditure as a result of Covid-19 in the year between February 2020 and 2021 is estimated at €17.1 billion, according to a new report.

The Comptroller and Auditor General annual report shows that of this spending, the Departments of Social Protection; Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Health and Housing account for 90%.

The Department of Social Protection reports that it spent €11.1 billion on Covid-19 related schemes up to the end of February 2021. 

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) accounts for over half (55%) of the Department’s Covid-19 expenditure. 

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) and its successor scheme the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) together account for 43% of the Department’s expenditure with a combined spend of €4.8 billion. 

The Department of Health, meanwhile, spent €2.7 billion on Covid-19, with over one third of that (€920 million) being spent on PPE. 

Supports for hospitals and nursing homes cost €600 million, while buildings and equipment cost €380 million and testing and tracing cost €292 million. 

The Department of Housing paid out a total of €840 million in supports in the year to February 2021. 

The payment of commercial rates to local authorities was waived for businesses that were significantly affected by Covid-19 related trading restrictions. The loss of such income was remedied by additional grant funding of local authorities, at a cost of €729 million. 

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment provided €783 million in supports to businesses impacted by Covid-19. 

In addition, the Department provided Covid-19 related loan funding to the value of €82.5 million. 

The Department of Education and the Department of Further and Higher Education together incurred direct Covid-19 expenditure estimated at €586 million. 

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Nearly half (€268 million) of this expenditure related to supports for the reopening of schools and educational supports for pupils. 

The Cathaoirleach of the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) Brian Stanley has welcomed the publication of today’s report and said it highlights areas worthy of further examination. 

“As Covid-19 has dominated the landscape in the last two years, the Government’s expenditure in response to the pandemic is worthy of further examination. The Committee will consider early engagements with the relevant government departments with high levels of Covid-19 expenditure,” Stanley said. 

“The expenditure that we will be examining will include costs incurred on support schemes and costs incurred as a direct result of our response to the pandemic to the end of February 2021,” he said. 

“We will be looking to ensure lessons are learned from this and stronger and more robust procedures are put in place around Exchequer funding in the future.” 

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