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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.
Pandemic Unemployment Payment

'A cliff edge in anyone's language': Public anger predicted over cuts to PUP

The PUP is to be gradually phased out by February 2022.

THE OPPOSITION HAS rounded on the government’s decision to reduce the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) in September and phase it out next February.

There were direct exchanges in the Dáil this afternoon, with opposition leaders saying the government had introduced a “cliff edge” to the PUP with the Taoiseach “fundamentally” disagreeing with this characterisation. 

Government ministers have repeatedly stated that the PUP and other pandemic-related supports would not come to an abrupt end. 

Sinn Féin, Labour, the Social Democrats and People Before Profit each today all called for the government to reverse its decision to phase out the PUP.

The top rate of PUP will be reduced from €350 to €300 from 7 September “provided progress on re-opening continues”.

Two further phases of changes will take place over the following months – the payment will reduce to €250 on 16 November and be abolished on 8 February. At this point, those unemployed would revert to claiming unemployment benefits. 

Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that people “locked out of work” in September will still have bills to pay when the PUP is cut. 

“I ask myself, what happened to ‘we are all in this together’, as was the slogan from your government. You promised no cliff edge, but cliff edges mean nothing to those who are relying literally on every single euro and to slash payments by €50-a-go is really, really devastating when it is workers who are prevented from working,” she said. 

I believe that your approach on this matter sends out a signal that the recovery you envisage is one that is unfair and one which leaves people behind. 

Social Democrats’ co-leader Róisín Shortall agreed that the cut constitutes a “cliff edge”: 

You have repeatedly promised that there will be no cliff edge when it came to the withdrawal of PUP. Yet today you have announced that there will be a cliff edge, that no matter what level of restrictions are in place across the country in September, payments will be reduced by €50. A further reduction of €50 will occur in November and a final reduction of €50 euro in February. 

“In total, that amounts to a huge 40% cut in an already meager payment, Taoiseach this is the very definition of a cliff edge.”

rois Roisín Shortall in the Dáil today.

Speaking to reporters outside Leinster House earlier, Labour’s Ged Nash expressed similar sentiments. 

He said the government was using, “extremely diplomatic language to describe what we believe actually is a cliff edge.”

“Many ministers have been using the term cliff edge and how cliff edges will be avoided over the next period of months. But if you’re on the PUP and in September you’ll see a €50 euro per week drop in your income. That is a cliff edge fall in anyone’s language,” he said. 

Nash’s party leader Alan Kelly said he believes the government’s PUP decision “is going to have to be reversed”. 

“I think there’ll be a lot of public anger in relation to this, particularly from the sectors that will be absolutely affected directly,” he said. 

Responding to the opposition’s criticism, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the government “fulfilled its commitments” in relation to the PUP and that it is actually being extended to September before being “gradually eased to February”.

He cited the grants being made available to businesses to “bring people back to work”.

“I would disagree fundamentally with the deputy, we haven’t introduced a cliff edge, the opposite is the case because we’ve extended out the PUP to September and then a phased, gradual basis right up to next February, which would be the second anniversary of the introduction of the PUP.  In other words it would have been in place by then for two years. It was actually originally introduced for 12 weeks,” the Taoiseach said.

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