Future of pandemic unemployment scheme to be decided by next government, Taoiseach indicates

Varadkar reiterates benefits will continue beyond June 8th as Dáil row erupts over estimates

Leo Varadkar: ‘As much as is possible we will leave the big party decisions be made by the next government whenever that happens.’ File photograph: Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

Leo Varadkar: ‘As much as is possible we will leave the big party decisions be made by the next government whenever that happens.’ File photograph: Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has indicated that it will be for the next government to decide the future of the pandemic unemployment payment (Pup) and the wage subsidy scheme.

The Government intends to extend both schemes beyond June 8th, Mr Varadkar said as a row erupted in the Dáil about the increased budget for the Department of Social Protection and the publication and approval of revised estimates.

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane who first raised the issue said “there was a fundamental flaw. These revised estimates have not yet been published.”

His party had sought a briefing on the estimates but had not got one. “We have an unelected government, unelected minister, estimates that appear to be based on figures we’ve seen that the Pup payment and wage subsidy scheme will end in June”.

He said it was ludicrous that they will be debating the revised estimates without knowing the future of the pandemic payment.

But Labour TD Ged Nash said earlier the supplementary estimates provided for an additional €5.5 billion, including €2 billion each for the Pup and wage subsidy scheme and €1 billion for job seekers allowance.

Mr Varadkar said “I really hope that nobody in the house is trying to sow concern or worry among people who are in receipt the pandemic employment payment”.

He told TDs that “people who are in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payments will continue to get it beyond the eighth of June, and I can give that assurance here in the House”.

Mr Varadkar said “we want any new policy decisions to be made by the next government, but sometimes we don’t have any choice because the various parties who claim to wish to want to form a government have failed to do so.

“We have to continue in our capacity as the continuing Government and make decisions as necessary. But as much as is possible we will leave the big party decisions be made by the next government whenever that happens.

“This Government or the new government will have to make a decision as to how long that will be extended to and will also have to deal with some of the anomalies which people are aware of already.”

He said these included “where there are a certain number of part-time workers who are now receiving more in the pandemic unemployment every week than they did in January or February before the pandemic happened.

“However, none of those things are decisions that have to be made now. The economy is only slowly opening up now. It’s going to have to be extended,” he said.

“What’s going to happen over the course of the next week or two, is we’re going to need revised estimates for a lot of government departments, but they are going to be brought forward to the house, and a no policy change basis, because as much as possible,”he said.