Possible changes to the pandemic unemployment payment

John Thornes

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has hinted at the possibility of restoring previous Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) rates to introductory levels for those in sectors badly affected by COVID-19.

Martin suggested the PUP rates may be adjusted for localised lockdowns in the coming weeks in an interview with The Journal.  Growing concerns for struggling sectors such as arts and entertainment are expected to be addressed prior to the October 13th budget.

“We will review all of the initiatives we’ve taken to date to see what we must do to improve them, or look at more sector specific approaches”, Martin said.

He defended the cuts in PUP, explaining that the declining rates in payment were reflective of the wages workers earned prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin also entertained the idea of allowing certain workers to return to work while also still receiving partial PUP. The Taoiseach added that this would give people opportunities to return to the workforce “without having to lose out on their social protection payments.”

Other government ministers have not ruled out the possible restoration of the PUP, including Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, who spoke on Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder.

In regards to adjustments to both the Wage Subsidy Scheme and PUP, Minister O’Brien stated “anything to do with helping people in those sectors… the state is intervening in a big way… we’ve got to try to keep people working and support them if they can’t”.

On The Week in Politics, leader of the opposition Mary Lou McDonald claimed this will lead to a “tsunami of debt” based on a statement from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service. She described it as “unfair and wrong” to cut PUP at this time.

According to gov.ie, an individual is entitled to PUP if they are not currently in receipt of any employment income, amongst other conditions.

A new rate of payment was added to PUP on September 17th, bringing the maximum amount that could be received per week from €350 to €300. This rate is for people who were previously earning over €300 per week.

Earnings between €200 and €300 and earnings below €200 would be paid €250 and €203 respectively.

The PUP was originally a flat rate of €350 per week but two payment bands were introduced in June to adjust that amount depending on a person’s average weekly income.

John Thornes