Surge in unemployment payments to more than 700,000

Free delivery of newspapers for vulnerable people by An Post begins

Liz Canavan: We heard the doctors telling us at the weekend that the next seven days are critical. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Liz Canavan: We heard the doctors telling us at the weekend that the next seven days are critical. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

A total of 714,000 people are now receiving social welfare income payments from the Department of Social Protection.

The €350 Covid-19 unemployment payment is being paid to 507,000 people who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, according to new figures issued by the Department. Another 207,000 were already on the live register.

This represents an increase of 200,000 people claiming income supports in less than a week. Last Thursday the department, on foot of figures issued by Central Statistic Office (CSO), said just over 513,000 people were on the live register or receiving the new income support payment.

The scale of demand for the Covid-19 payment demonstrated the “once in a century nature of the emergency facing the country” Minister for Social Protection, Regina Doherty said.

“The focus of my Department is to ensure that we get assistance to all who need it as effectively and quickly as possible and I would like to acknowledge the innovation, commitment and energy of all my staff who have moved mountains to meet this historic challenge.”

The payments, issued on Friday, will be in recipients’ bank accounts or at their local post office from Tuesday .

Separately, 39,000 employers have registered for the Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme since it was established two weeks ago.

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Assistant secretary general in the Department of the Taoiseach Liz Canavan commended the “strong uptake” of the scheme established to encourage employers to keep workers on their books during the current crisis.

It provides a subsidy of 70 per cent of take home pay, up to a weekly maximum tax free amount of €410 to allow firms to keep paying their staff. Almost €87 million has already been paid out under the scheme, Ms Canavan said.

“Today Revenue has generated further refunds under the scheme worth €14 million. These payments will be in the banks accounts of the majority of the respective employers tomorrow, the 7th of April. The cumulative value of payments made under the scheme is almost €87 million.”

Following concerns about clusters of Ccronavirus in nursing homes, additional measures were being put in place to reduce the risk of transmission, including twice daily “staff screening”, priority Covid-19 testing for staff and alternative accommodation and transport for staff if required. A financial support scheme for nursing home operators was also being put in place she said.

The repatriation of Irish citizens was continuing, Ms Canavan said, with 2,700 people having received assistance to return home to date. The Department of Foreign Affairs was currently trying to help another 2,000 citizens to return, mostly from Australia, with around 100 in New Zealand.

In recent days more than 70 Irish citizens were flown home from India she said.

Ms Canavan said the Government appreciated the difficulties the request for older people to stay indoors or “cocoon” was causing, particularly for people who had previously lived independent lives.

“The reason the chief medical officer has asked you to stay at home is to be confident that everybody over 70 and people with underlying conditions have the best chance of avoiding Covid-19,” she said.

“It’s one less person to worry about contracting the disease. The best way to think about it is we need your help and staying at home is how you can help.”

From today An Post is starting a same day newspaper delivery service, with free delivery for older and vulnerable people who cannot leave their homes. Those wishing to sign up to the service should contact anpost.com, or their national or local newspaper of choice, Ms Canavan said.

It was vital everyone continued to abide by the social distancing and other restrictions on movement and the measures on hygiene and cough etiquette she said.

“We heard the doctors telling us at the weekend that the next seven days are critical. So far so good, but we need to stick to the restrictions. Everyone has a part to play and you have been playing your part and that’s why it has been effective. We need to keep this going to flatten the curve more than we have.”