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Government was told all over-66s 'would have to get PUP'

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Independent Denis Naughten

Independent Denis Naughten

Independent Denis Naughten

The Government excluded over-66s who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis from the €350 weekly emergency unemployment payment due to legal advice that all pensioners would have to be paid the same sum.

The explanation for the denial of the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (Covid-19 PUP) was provided by junior minister Ciaran Cannon to one affected family.

Christy and Mary Ruane, from Glentane, Co Galway, had to close their family pub due to the coronavirus restrictions.

Left with the their State pension as income, they have had to dip into savings to meet ongoing bills related to their business. The State pension of around €240 a week is €100 less than the Covid-19 PUP.

The Ruanes are among several people in the over-66 age group who raised the issue with Independent TD Denis Naughten, who has been at the forefront of highlighting the exclusion of older workers as "totally unacceptable".

Their son Shane also contacted Mr Cannon.

Sympathised

The Fine Gael minster sympathised with their situation, but said he had consulted with Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty and over-66s were left out of the scheme for two reasons. Firstly, they already had access to an income in the form of the State pension.

He also said that the legal advice to Ms Doherty was that if the €350 payment was extended to over-66s it would have to be extended to all pensioners which was not affordable.

So far the Government has given no indication that it is willing to budge on the issue.

The Department of Social Protection did not respond directly to Mr Cannon's explanation for why the over-66s were excluded.

It said in a statement that pensioners also had access to other income support not available to the unemployed, including the free fuel allowance, free travel and free TV licence.

It also pointed out that the over-66s are not required to pay PRSI contributions. It said the over-66s are entitled to be paid under the temporary wage subsidy scheme if their employers are signed up to it.