The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty today announced that the Government has approved the extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment until 10th August 2020.
In announcing the extension the Minister said:
“The Pandemic Unemployment Payment was the most effective and remarkable emergency response in the history of our nation’s social welfare system. In the space of days, we provided assistance to over 600,000 people who lost their income suddenly and without warning. At a time of great stress and worry about the health effects of Covid-19, the introduction of the payment helped reduce the extent to which this stress was compounded by worries related to financial concerns. In doing that it played a vital role in contributing to public support for the necessary public health measures including social distancing.
“This public support is now paying dividends and we can begin to roll back the restrictions and re-open our society – even at a faster pace than we thought was possible a number of weeks ago. However we cannot be complacent. Many people are still dependent on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and will be for some time. We need to continue to support them. Today I am pleased to announce that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will continue until 10th August 2020”
The changes announced today include:
Extending the availability of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) from 9th June until 10th August;
The introduction, from Phase 3 of the Roadmap (29th June), of a two level payment structure to link the Pandemic Unemployment Payment level to prior earnings;
The extension until 10th August of the waiver of waiting days on jobseekers payments and the increased rate of payment for Qualified Adults on jobseeker claims;
The extension, until 10th August of the current arrangements with respect to the waiver of waiting days and the payment of an enhanced rate of Illness Benefit to people affected by Covid-19.
One of the issues identified with the Pandemic Unemployment Payment is that a minority of recipients who previously only worked a small number of hours received significantly more in the Pandemic Unemployment Payment than while in employment.
In order to address this issue the PUP will now be paid at two levels:
For those whose prior employment earnings were €200 per week or higher (about 75% of recipients), the PUP rate will remain at €350 per week;
For those whose prior employment earnings were up to €199.99 per week (about 25% of recipients), the PUP rate will be €203 per week - the primary rate of payment of the Jobseeker’s Benefit scheme
No person on the lower rate of payment will receive less on PUP than they were previously paid by their employer.
Speaking today, Minister Doherty said:
“In March the Government had to take some extraordinary and exceptional decisions to in effect, close down large areas of Irish life in order to protect that life. As well as protecting lives we wanted to protect livelihoods. We knew that we would have to step in to substitute employment income with a strong State income support and, through the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme we did that.
“The changes to the structure of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment means that it continues to be a strong support but also a fairer and more targeted support - no full-time worker will have their payment reduced and part-time workers will continue to receive more income than they did from employment before Covid-19. This is fair and equitable and is one further step along the way to re-opening our society.
“Finally, with regard to the future of PUP and our supports in the longer term, I have tasked my officials to start working on options for any future changes to the scheme - taking into account progress in the re-opening of society and the developing health situation.”
The Pandemic Unemployment Payment was introduced as a flat rate payment of €203 per week and was increased to €350 per week in March 2020.
Workers in receipt of both employment income and social welfare payments (e.g. carers who work, people on Disability Allowance who work, recipients of the Working Family Payment and the One-Parent Family payment) receive, and will continue to receive PUP in addition to their underlying social welfare entitlement.
At its peak, over 600,000 people received the PUP in one week – this number is now below 545,000 and falling.
Total payments made under PUP to date amount to €1.9 billion.
The payment rate and structure reflected a number of issues:
a need for administrative simplicity – in order to quickly implement a payment capable of being delivered within a week to hundreds of thousands of people
a need to substitute prior income – the rate of €350 is approximately equal to average pay in the two sectors most immediately and significantly affected – Retail and Hospitality
equivalence with other income supports – the rate of the PUP is the same as the Enhanced COVID-19 Illness Benefit and is equivalent to the jobseeker payment for a two-person adult household
As a consequence of its flat rate structure a number of people, mainly low-hours workers, receive a higher State income support than they received in employment income.
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