Most of the 313,000 workers on the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) face a cut in the benefit from September, but the Government will extend the scheme to April at a cost of €2.2 billion.
Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys also pledged that the State would spend a further €100 million providing 45,500 new places on job schemes to aid those out of work.
Some 313,800 people, out of work as a result of measures taken by the State to contain Covid-19’s spread, are receiving €350 a week under the pandemic unemployment scheme.
The Government will cut the payment from September 17th, and close it to new applicants.
From then the State will pay €203 per week to those who earned less than €200 a week before Covid-19 struck.
Those who earned between €200 and €300 will get €250 per week, while those who earned more than €300 a week will receive €300 per week.
The scheme will run until April 2021, instead of ending in August, as the government originally planned.
From April next year the department will cut to the standard €203 a week paid to all those on the jobseeker’s allowance.
Ms Humphreys argued that the current payment was not sustainable, and had to be cut to allow the Government to extend it until next spring.
The changes to the unemployment payment are part of the Government’s €7 billion stimulus plan meant to tackle the economic problems left by the State’s efforts to limit the pandemic’s impact.
The Department of Social Protection will spend a further €100 million in an effort to get 45,500 people back to work, particularly those left jobless following the coronavirus lockdown.
Measures include extending the recruitment subsidy for employers hiring people from the live register to include those taking on people getting the pandemic payment.
“Although many people are now returning to work I am acutely conscious that many businesses may not be able to reopen to the same level of activity as they enjoyed before Covid-19,” Ms Humphreys said.
Both the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance and Back to Education Allowance schemes will be extended to those on the payment.
The department will double the training grant to €1,000 from €500. This is paid to jobseekers who need cash to pay for short training courses likely to boost their chances of getting work.
The Government will also increase the number of places on State schemes including Community Employment and TÚS to provide work and experience to those on the pandemic payment.
Self-employed people, sole traders and smaller enterprises will get a grant of €1,000 to aid with the cost of restarting their businesses when they come off the pandemic payment.
Ms Humphreys said that her organisation would work with the Department of Finance to develop a new short-time working scheme. This will use wage subsidies to support businesses in keeping jobs and help employers where demand for their services is reduced for an extended period of time.
Ms Humphreys stressed the measures “were just a start”, and said the Government would invest more if reviews found this were needed. “This is an agenda that will be driven and adapted in the months ahead.”