Government announces a National Covid-19 Income Support Scheme

The Government has today announced a National Covid-19 Income Support Scheme to provide financial support to Irish workers and companies affected by the crisis.

In summary:

a temporary wage subsidy of 70% of take home pay up to a maximum weekly tax free amount of €410 per week to help affected companies keep paying their employees. This is the equivalent of €500 per week before tax;

workers who have lost their jobs due to the crisis will receive an enhanced emergency Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of €350 per week (an increase from €203 );

the Covid-19 illness payment will also be increased to €350 per week;

Self-Employed will be eligible for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of €350 directly from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (rather than the Revenue scheme );

enhanced protections for people facing difficulties with their mortgages, rent or utility bills;

These follow on from a range of supports already in place to help business through the crisis. The Government is taking these extraordinary measures to help ordinary Irish citizens and families during this period of great economic and social stress.

These measures will be costly – with an initial estimated cost of €3.7 billion over a 12 week period. The Government believes these costs are necessary to ensure social solidarity with workers and their families affected by the crisis.

Separately, the Government has announced that it is implementing further measures to slow the spread of the virus as recommended by the Chief Medical Officer, and by the National Public Health Emergency Team - an expert team of public health doctors, virologists and scientists.

Speaking at the announcement, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “The Government has today agreed unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented emergency. We have new measures to stop the spread of the virus, in tandem with new measures to help those who have lost or will lose their jobs. I want to thank the people of Ireland for listening to our advice when it comes to physical distancing, regular handwashing, taking care when sneezing and coughing, and reducing the number of social events and gatherings you attend. It’s too early to know for sure, but we believe it is making a difference. However, we now believe we need to do more.

“We cannot stop this virus but working together we can slow it in its tracks and push it back. These are extraordinarily difficult times for everyone – in Ireland and around the world. But no matter what happens, we will always put your life and your health ahead of any other concern. All our resources are being deployed in this great national effort. And I know that the Irish people will continue to face this head-on, to make the changes that required, and will pull through to the other side.”

Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure & Reform Paschal Donohoe said: “As we work to diminish the impact of this global health pandemic, we will ensure that the economic impact on those who have lost their jobs or had their hours or income reduced is minimised to the greatest extent possible. The measures being introduced today aim to provide income support to those who need it while also giving confidence to employers to retain the link with employees so that when this crisis passes - and it will pass – our people can get back to work as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

“This builds on the work the Government has done with respect to repayment breaks on mortgages and business loans, a prohibition on evictions and rent increases, and the deferral of rates for businesses. We are in exceptional times. The health of our people, and ensuring we remain safe, is our number one priority. Supporting businesses and positioning ourselves so that we can bounce back when the time comes is also paramount. This detailed plan which is being set out today will do that. It is designed to provide comfort and reassurance to concerned citizens during this time of unprecedented-but transitory - difficulty.”

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys said: “Government is today entering into an economic partnership with businesses and employers nationwide so that we can support them and their staff through this unprecedented crisis. It is hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago, Ireland was at full employment with record numbers at work. Practically overnight the economic and employment landscape in our country has been utterly transformed by COVID-19.

“Through the measures announced today, we want to ensure that businesses are able to keep their employees on the books so that when this crisis ends, Ireland and our citizens can get back to work as quickly as possible.”

Minister for Employment Affairs & Social Protection Regina Doherty said: “We are living in unprecedented times and the Covid 19 virus is presenting a once in a century challenge to Irish society – testing our cohesion, our resilience and our ability to respond. While, naturally, this is first and foremost a public health challenge, it is also a serious threat to the living standards and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Irish people. It is almost impossible to predict the scale of employment loss but they will be significant in the short term and that is why we need to present immediate solutions which will meet the scale of that challenge.

“Today, I am pleased to announce substantial increases in the weekly rates of payment for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Illness Benefit payment for those required to self-isolate or diagnosed with Covid-19. Both will now be paid at the rate of €350 per week. This will provide significant assistance to many of those recently laid off – particularly in the badly affected hospitality and retail sectors where the new rate of payment will reflect at least 87% of average take home pay.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris said: “As we navigate through this public health emergency, we have asked the Irish people to make great sacrifices. They have risen to that challenge and we have seen some of the benefits of their actions. But now is the time to do more. We have measures now we must take. They are no easy options but we can show the world what can be achieved through intensive, sustained public health action and the willingness of everyone to act for the common good.

“Through Government decisions, the mobilisation of individuals and communities and the leadership of our incredible healthcare professionals, we can have a profound effect on the impact of this outbreak on our people, protect the most vulnerable and save lives.”

 

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