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Plans to extend Covid payments beyond June with changes

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Paschal Donohoe is examining the payment

Paschal Donohoe is examining the payment

Paschal Donohoe is examining the payment

Emergency Covid-19 benefit schemes are set to be extended beyond next month, but changes are expected after a Government report found the income supports are unsustainable.

More than 30,000 people have received their final pandemic payment as they head back to work.

The number receiving the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) fell again this week, but there are still 579,400 receiving it.

The pandemic payment, and a separate scheme to subsidise wages, were introduced 12 weeks ago as thousands of workers lost their jobs due to a Government-ordered business shutdown.

A spokesperson for Paschal Donohoe, the Finance Minister, said there is an anomaly in relation to the pandemic payment and he is "examining the matter".

Social Protection and Employment Affairs Minister, Regina Doherty, announced yesterday that a review of the payment was necessary.

"As we gradually move through the phases of reopening our society, we need to now review the nature of the pandemic unemployment payment and how it fits into cross-government plans to keep Ireland healthy and get the country working again," she said.

Difficult

Meanwhile, Business Minister Heather Humphreys said employers had told her they were finding it difficult to recruit staff as the restrictions ease.

She said employers are finding it difficult to recruit people back to work as some are earning more from the €350 weekly pandemic payment.

She said the payment was an urgent response to an unprecedented emergency and the Government never claimed it was perfect.

Ms Humphreys said a final decision had not been made on changes to the payment, but it was not fair and sustainable that some were getting more money than when they were at work.

But Fianna Fail spokesperson on social protection, Willie O'Dea, said there was no great evidence that people were not going back to work because the pandemic payment is too high.

"This payment is barely sufficient to enable people to survive from week to week and ordinary rates of social welfare are below the poverty line," he said.

"We have to be very careful how we approach this.

"If the Government deems it to be necessary to reduce it because of the cost, it has to be done in a humane and measured way."

He also criticised comments by party colleague Anne Rabbitte over the weekend backing a reduction in the payment.