€350-a-week Covid-19 payment stays until August

The €350-a-week Covid-19 payment will be tapered down over several months.
By Daniel McConnell
Political Editor

Additional reporting by Liz Dunphy

The €350-a-week Covid-19 payment looks set to remain in place until the lifting of restrictions in August and will be tapered down over several months after that, it can be revealed.

More than 200,000 workers, including students and part-time employees, who are better off on the weekly pandemic unemployment assistance will see their payments reduced as the system is finessed to remove anomalies.

While no final decision has been taken, it has been confirmed the Government is committed to transitioning people off the “unsustainable” payment to the €203 weekly jobseekers allowance over a period of time, yet to be agreed, if they are not in a position to return to work.

A range of options is under consideration by the Government as to how to handle the payment beyond June 8, when it was meant to cease.

The Irish Examiner, however, has been informed that:

  • Payments will be in place as long as restrictions remain
  • Efforts will be made to transfer people off the emergency €350 payment to the wage subsidy scheme as quickly as possible
  • The reduction in payments must happen in tandem with the lifting of restrictions
  • Part-time workers including students who are “better off” on the payment will see a reduction in their payments
  • Recipients of the emergency payment such as lone parents who are also in receipt of other welfare payments are likely to face a “clawback” of money of over €1,000 by way of a retrospective means testing
  • It is planned that anyone receiving the pandemic payment who turns down an offer of a return to work will become ineligible for it
  • Greater enforcement powers are being examined to police those refusing offers to return to work.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that if somebody is offered their job back and refuses to take it, they lose eligibility for the payment.

“We will need to do a bit of enforcement around that but before we start to do any of these things, we wanted to make sure that people could actually [live],” he said.

In relation to the 220,000 people earning more on the payment, he said that the situation is not fair and not sustainable, but said that the Government had little option but to move forward with it as the outbreak developed.

Meanwhile, 12 more people with Covid-19 have died, bringing the death toll to 1,583. And 76 new cases were detected, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 24,391.

Hospital admissions to ICU are now very stable and Covid-19-related deaths are falling to nine deaths per day on average, said Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the National Public Health Emergency Team’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group.