Covid-19: State paid €11.5bn in supports for people over past 12 months

More than 850,000 people received pandemic unemployment payment, Department of Social Protection report says

More than 850,000 people received the pandemic unemployment payment, according to a report. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

More than 850,000 people received the pandemic unemployment payment, according to a report. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

The State paid out €11.5 billion in payments and other financial supports to people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic over the last 12 months, according to a new report from the Department of Social Protection.

The report said just under 20 million payments have been made under the pandemic unemployment payment scheme to over 850,000 people. It said the pandemic unemployment payment scheme has provided financial support of more than €6.3 billion since it was introduced a year ago this week.

The Department of Social Protection said research by the ESRI and more recently by the Central Statistics Office and the Central Bank of Ireland indicated the gross median income of Irish households would have fallen by almost 20 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 without the intervention of Government supports such as the pandemic unemployment payment, the temporary wage subsidy and the employment wage subsidy schemes.

“In practice, the income supports cushioned this income effect and were particularly effective for low income households. The Department’s own analysis late last year, similar to that of the ESRI, indicates that on average for most households in the lower 40 per cent of the income distribution the income supports came close to fully cushioning the income losses due to Covid-19 related employment lay-offs.”

The Department of Social Protection on Friday said the number of people receiving the pandemic unemployment payment this week fell by 8,280 compared to last week.

It said 456,580 people would receive the pandemic unemployment payment this week .

This is in in addition to the 186,702 people who were on the Live Register at the end of February.

The department said Dublin was the county with the highest number of people who are receiving the pandemic unemployment payment this week at 144,683. It is followed by Cork (46,068) and Galway (24,563).

“All sectors have fewer people receiving the pandemic unemployment payment this week than last week, reflecting the number of people who have closed their claims this week to return to work,” the report said.

“The sector with the highest number of people receiving the pandemic unemployment payment this week is accommodation and food service activities (108,767), followed by wholesale and retail trade (73,070) and construction (57,269). “

“Construction is the sector that has seen the largest decrease in the number of people receiving the pandemic unemployment payment this week, with 1,595 fewer people receiving the payment compared to last week.”

The Department of Social Protection said that in addition to the pandemic unemployment payment, just under 650,000 workers employed by just under 70,000 employers were supported by the temporary wage subsidy scheme (TWSS) to the value of just over €2.7 billion.

The aim of the TWSS was that rather than laying staff off, employers could keep their workers on the payroll and then claim a refund from the Department of Social Protection.

“The TWSS was itself refined and replaced by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) from 1st September. Since then, the EWSS has supported just under 550,000 workers employed by just under 50,000 employers to a value of €2.3 billion.”

The report says almost 142,000 people had received collectively approximately €88 million in the enhanced illness benefit scheme. This provided a higher payment of higher rate of €350 per week based on a medical certification to workers who fell ill or were diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus, or were required to self-isolate with an income support while absent from their jobs.

The Department of Social Protection said on Friday that the Government had confirmed Covid-19 income supports would be maintained until at least June 30th, 2021.

“The position will be kept under review and the future of the supports beyond that time will be considered over the coming months. Any changes that may be made after June will be informed by matters such as the trajectory of the virus and the status of the vaccination rollout programme.”