Coronavirus: Civil service staff reassigned to help thousands of people signing on

Up to 50,000 bar staff and 25,000 in childcare effectively laid off due to outbreak

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said it was ‘hard to fathom’ how many people would  apply for an emergency payment due to the coronavirus outbreak and that her department was still modelling estimates. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said it was ‘hard to fathom’ how many people would apply for an emergency payment due to the coronavirus outbreak and that her department was still modelling estimates. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

 

Staff from across the civil service are being reassigned to the Department of Social Protection to help process a surge in emergency unemployment claims from people signing on due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Employers in the pub, childcare and other sectors are being asked to continue paying staff up to €203 a week as the department scrambles to cope with tens of thousands of new claims.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said employers would be reimbursed by Government “within a number of weeks”.

Details of how employers could apply for reimbursement would be finalised at Cabinet on Tuesday, and the scheme would be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday, she said.

Up to 50,000 bar workers and 25,000 childcare workers, as well as thousands in the restaurant, catering, beauty and retail sectors, are among those to have been effectively laid off in the past week due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We have asked employers, where they can, to keep people on their books and pay them the minimum of the €203 per week which is the equivalent of a job seekers’ rate,” said Ms Doherty.

“If employers are continuing to keep staff on their books it ensures continuity of an income for employees and also ensures relationship continuity between the employee and employer so when things do pick up in a couple of weeks they will be able to pick where they left off.”

For others a new emergency payment, the Covid Pandemic Unemployment Payment, will be available to anyone who has lost their job due to the outbreak. Worth €203 a week it can be applied for online at MyGov.ie for those who have a Public Services Card (PSC).

Workers who do not have a PSC can download a one-page application form but must have access to a printer. A stamp is not needed to send it to: Freepost, PO Box 12896, Dublin 1. Once received applications would be processed within 48 hours, said the minister.

Emergency payment

The emergency payment and will last for six weeks and does not provide additional allowances for dependent children or adults. During the six weeks recipients should apply for the most suitable long-term payment, for example Jobseekers Allowance or Illness Benefit.

Laid off workers with children who had been receiving the Working Family Payment will no longer get it, said the minister.

“Right now people who have lost their jobs can apply for the [EMERGENCY]Covid 19 job seekers payment and they will receive it for the next six weeks until we figure out what payment they should be on and move them to the appropriate payment for a longer period.”

She said her Department had seen 20,000 new people present for jobseekers’ payments on Friday.

“People that arrived on Friday should see their payments being awarded today or tomorrow. The offices up and down the country are open today but we are asking people not to call, though there are steady flows of people coming to our offices,” she said.

It was difficult to forecast how many would apply for the emergency payment which became available from Monday morning.

There would be no change to payments for people on community employment or Tús schemes, she said.

“People will continue to stay on those schemes and will continue to receive their payments. I think in the coming weeks you will see we will begin to draw on those people in terms of community responses for the needs of our citizens.”

Information can be obtained from the department on Covid-19 payments via the lo-call number 1890800024. A frequently asked questions page is being compiled by the department and will be published on its website.