TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has told the Dáil that the pandemic unemployment payment will be extended “for months, not weeks”, but that those who worked part-time prior to the crisis will see the amount they receive cut.
He said that those who were working full-time prior to receiving the Covid-19 unemployment payment will continue to receive €350 a week into the future.
However, those who were working part-time will see their payment reduced.
The Taoiseach added that such people will receive more than they had done while working part-time.
He said that a decision will be forthcoming from Cabinet tomorrow.
Earlier, a Minister of State in the Department of Finance has said there has been “no decision made” on cutting the pandemic unemployment payment by 40% for people who worked part-time prior to the crisis.
Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sarah McInerney, Patrick O’Donovan said it was “always envisaged” that the temporary schemes introduced by the government would be reviewed in the middle of June.
The Limerick County TD was pressed on the issue after a report in today’s Irish Independent said the government was planning to reduce the Covid-19 unemployment payment from €350 a week to €203 a week, in line with jobseekers allowance.
The government has already indicated that it will be extending both the unemployment scheme and the temporary wage subsidy scheme beyond the original June date.
Last week, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty told the Dáil she will bring forward proposals for some changes to the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the wage subsidy scheme within the next week or so.
And, yesterday, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said that the government is hoping to make an announcement in the coming days that will outline the “future of the wage subsidy scheme across coming months into the future and the pandemic unemployment payment – we want to give guidance for both of those”.
Following today’s report on the 40% cut, O’Donovan said that the matter would be discussed at Cabinet and added it is “a bit early to be speculating how the government will react”.
He also referred to the stark Exchequer figures which were published yesterday, which highlighted a €6 billion deficit at the end of May.
The minister of state said today the figures were “dire in terms of the economy”.
He said there would be less demand for the unemployment scheme as people returned to work but reiterated no decision had yet been made regarding cutting the payment for people who worked part-time.
On the same programme, Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said it was important that clarity was provided to those in receipt of the payment.
He said that cutting the payment – or getting rid of it altogether – would be “not acceptable, not fair and not what is needed for the economy”.
Doherty said that Sinn Féin would prefer the payments continued in some form to the end of the year, and that any inconsistencies in the scheme should be addressed.
He also called for the government to provide greater supports to businesses in need of stimulus as the economy reels from the effects of Covid-19.