Businesses forced to close early because of new coronavirus restrictions will be offered enhanced pandemic supports under plans due to be unveiled by the Government this week.
Officials are examining changes to the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) which would mean that more companies can apply for a payment of up to €5,000 a week.
At present, if a company has been forced to close temporarily or reduce opening hours, and if turnover is no more than 25 per cent of what it was in 2019, they qualify for the scheme.
Government sources confirmed that the 25 per cent criterion will be revised upwards to bring more businesses into the net.
“It will have to be adjusted because if you’re open until 8pm you will have more than 25 per cent [turnover] but you might not have 50 per cent or 60 per cent, so that is likely to change,” one source said.
Changes to the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) are not expected.
The additional restrictions announced by the Government will cost tens of millions of euro as up to 60,000 could find themselves losing their jobs.
On Sunday, the Minister for Public Expenditure, Michael McGrath, warned that thousands of hospitality industry employees were expected to sign on for unemployment supports over the coming days.
Mr McGrath said while it was difficult to predict numbers, he expected tens of thousands would seek the PUP or other forms of income support.
The next PUP payment is due on December 21st and those who applied in recent days will get an advance payment this coming Tuesday to cover the following week.
He said the Government was asking businesses, where possible, to keep employees on their books using the employment wage subsidy scheme. This will be will be paid at the top rate until at least the end of January.
He indicated the changes to the CRSS would be announced on Tuesday at the latest.
Mr McGrath said the changes would aim to provide support for “supply chain” businesses and others whose trade was heavily dependent on providing goods or services to the hospitality sector.
He said officials were also examining a business resumption support scheme, a single payment aimed at businesses whose turnover had fallen sharply due to Covid restrictions.
“No Government ever wants to be in a position where it has to impose restrictions which result in people losing their job,” Mr McGrath told RTÉ’s This Week programme.
“As a Government, we have been presented with modelling and a scenario whereby the Omicron variant is now dominant in Ireland . . . In the next number of weeks we’ll see a significant increase in the incidence of this disease . . . The first duty of any Government is to protect the health of its people and to safeguard our public health system, and that is why we’ve made the moves we’ve made.”
When asked if other restrictions were due by the end of the month, he said the next National Public Health Emergency Team meeting was not scheduled until January 6th.
“If circumstances require, a further meeting can be arranged. We stand ready to respond to events and circumstances as they unfold.
“But I think it’s important that we reassure people that all arms of Government are fully focused and working at full tilt to address what is a very significant challenge for our country.”