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First cuts to Pandemic Unemployment Payment rates take effect from today

Students who have been availing of the scheme will receive their final payments today.
Sep 7th 2021, 6:00 AM 44,806 19

THE FIRST CUTS to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will take effect from today with students also receiving their final payments under the scheme.

The top two rates of the PUP will be cut by €50 from today after being closed to new entrants in July in line with the Government’s plan to phase out the scheme altogether from February 2022. 

PUP recipients will notice the changes to their payments from 14 September.

Today’s initial reductions mean anyone currently receiving the €350 per week payment will see their payment reduced to €300 next week.

Anyone receiving the payment at the €300 per week rate will now receive €250.

Meanwhile, anyone receiving the payment at the €250 per week rate will now receive €203 per week, the standard jobseeker’s rate.

Once a recipient’s payment reaches €203, they will be eventually be moved to the jobseeker’s payment at the end of the month, a move that has been criticised by the arts and entertainment sector, in particular.

Speaking to The Journal ahead of the easing of restrictions on live events and musical performances yesterday, Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland (MEAI) spokesperson, Matt McGranaghan said the Government should acknowledge that the entertainment sector won’t be operating at or near full employment for a long time.

“The PUP is to be cut this week and what’s more worrying than that is the transition from PUP to jobseeker’s [allowance],” he said.

“If that happens people will be classified as unemployed and that prevents them from engaging in self-employed work, that just doesn’t work for this sector.”

Self-employed can still avail of the €1,000 Enterprise Support Grant, which will remain in place until the end of the year. The grant is available to self-employed people who have closed out their PUP.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) also recently wrote to the Government, outlining its concern about plans to wind down of the scheme.

ICTU said workers in sectors that haven’t yet reopened due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions should be able to stay on the full PUP “as the prevailing circumstances continue to be outside of their control”. 

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Wage subsidy

Two further PUP rate reductions are slated for 16 November and 8 February ahead of the scheme’s expected closure at the end of February 2022.

Last week, 143,000 people received the PUP, a reduction of roughly 6,000 on the previous week and down from a peak of nearly 600,000 last May.

Overall, around 900,000 people have received one PUP payment at a total cost to the State of around €8.6 billion.

Meanwhile, it’s understood that ministers are discussing plans to extend the Government’s Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme for another three months beyond its deadline.

Currently, it’s expected that the scheme will be wound down at the end of the year.

But Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath told Reuters last week that ministers have an open mind about extending it until the end of March next year.

“It is fair to assume that it (the wage subsidy scheme) is not going to disappear overnight, that there will have to be a transition away from, and a tapering off from, the scheme over a period of time,” he said.

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Ian Curran

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