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Varadkar: 'Extending pandemic payment and wage subsidy scheme may be needed if restrictions stay in place'

Varadkar also said no decision has been made on whether or not to extend the payment.

Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said the wage subsidy scheme and the pandemic payment may be extended if the restrictions have to stay in place.

However, he said the government wants to avoid the scenario where Ireland has three groups of unemployed people.

On 5 May, an update on the restrictions will be given to the public. A roadmap for lifting restrictions will be published before that date.

Speaking to reporters at Government Buildings today, Varadkar said no decision has been made on whether or not to extend the payment, but he added it “may be necessary if the restrictions have to stay in place”.

Varadkar said the unemployment payments at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis were done “in a hurry” in order to get money to people quickly.

As a result, anomalies have arisen whereby some people are being paid more on than they might have previously earned, said the Taoiseach. 

The original plan was to give people up to 70% of their previous income for people earning up to €35,000, but it would have taken too long to administer, he said.

“We would have left people with no money for weeks and weeks on end,” he said.

Speaking about the groups of unemployed people in Ireland, Varadkar said there can’t be a situation whereby there are those who became unemployed before Covid-19, those who became unemployed during Covid-19 on the €350 payment and those who become unemployed after Covid-19 being placed on a different regime.

“At some point we’re going to need to pull them all together,” he said. He added that the priority is to protected peoples’ incomes and to only reform the benefit system at the right time. 

Speaking earlier this week, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe warned that the wage subsidy scheme would need to be tapered as people return to work.

He said decisions will have to be made in a few weeks’ time about how the State will continue to pay welfare supports to people who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19.

“We are in a position to fully implement the wage subsidy for eight or nine more weeks. After that point, decisions will have to be made as to how it is maintained.”

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