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Government keen to put a safety net in place for those who lose their jobs

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Tanaiste Simon Coveney

Tanaiste Simon Coveney

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Tanaiste Simon Coveney

Increased emergency payments for workers topped up by employers is being considered to support those who lose their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis.

Government officials are scrambling to create a safety net for potentially hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed people.

Amid mounting pressure to deliver better financial support, Tanaiste Simon Coveney promised a "significant" financial package that goes "well beyond" the €203-a-week "Covid payments" already on offer.

Senior Government sources last night played down reports that Ireland will follow the lead of other countries bringing in schemes to ensure a capped percentage of workers' salaries will still be paid.

Denmark is to pay up to 75pc of wages to affected workers, while the UK is pledging to maintain pay for virus-hit workers at 80pc of salaries.

Such schemes are being examined but were described as "very messy" and "hard to administer".

Some are targeted and do not cover everyone.

Simple

A source said that a "simple" solution is required and it's "probably going to be a higher Covid payment that employers can top up".

The sums involved and how it will be paid were still being discussed at meetings at Government Buildings last night.

Fianna Fail has criticised the financial support on offer so far as "weak" and out of step with other countries.

Last night its finance spokesman Michael McGrath said that the job losses will "really hurt very quickly for people".

He said everyone understands it takes time to finalise such a major policy announcement.

"Speed is of the essence but you do have to get the detail right," he said.

Mr McGrath said 330,000 self-employed people should not be forgotten in any support.

He said Fianna Fail was not specifying an exact figure for the level of financial help that should be offered.

However, he said there was "merit" in an Ibec proposal that up to €4bn be provided to fund salary replacement rates of at least 70pc of net wages lost for 20 weeks for up to 500,000 workers if necessary.

Sinn Fein has suggested an income support scheme that will guarantee an income of up to €525-a-week for 20 weeks for all workers laid off.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the Government's response needs to be "scaled up".

She also told Newstalk Radio's On The Record that every workplace where it is not possible to have safe social distancing should be closed.

Green Party enterprise spokesman Steven Matthews said there needed to be "more urgent action to help those who are suffering financially".

Mr Coveney told RTE Radio that the financial package was still being finalised and the Government hoped to be in a position to announce it in the middle of the week.