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Budget 2021: Carers' top-up and compensation scheme for businesses planned as part of €5bn superfund to help save economy amid Covid and Brexit

Carers will receive €150 extra as Budget details are ironed out

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Big decisions: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe issued this photo of his last-minute Budget discussions with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath last night, promising: ‘Our country is dealing with many challenges but we are equipped to rise to them. And we will.’

Big decisions: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe issued this photo of his last-minute Budget discussions with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath last night, promising: ‘Our country is dealing with many challenges but we are equipped to rise to them. And we will.’

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Big decisions: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe issued this photo of his last-minute Budget discussions with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath last night, promising: ‘Our country is dealing with many challenges but we are equipped to rise to them. And we will.’

A "superfund" of up to €5bn to combat the twin threats of Covid-19 and a no-deal Brexit is set be announced in tomorrow's Budget.

Ministers will today work to finalise the details of the huge spending and borrowing that will take place next year as the Government seeks to steer the country through both crises and kick-start an economic recovery.

Meanwhile, the Irish Independent has learned that around 114,000 carers and their families will benefit from a €150 boost to the ­carer's ­support grant.

The top-up, to be paid next year, will see it rise to €1,850, its highest-ever level.

The final make-up of this year's Christmas bonus for social welfare recipients remains under discussion.

Sources said it was expected the payment to pensioners and others would take place this year and its extension to people on the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) was being considered.

But the final make-up of the package - whether it will be at 100pc of a full weekly payment or a lower proportion - and any restrictions on new PUP recipients has yet to be decided.

Deliberations are likely to go down to the wire.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan will hold their regular pre-Cabinet meeting today with the Budget set to be high on the agenda.

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Both Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath have spoken of how the Budget will be geared towards meeting the massive challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and a ­possible no-trade deal Brexit.

Sources said between €4bn and €5bn was being earmarked for what one senior figure described as a "Brexit/Covid superfund" that would cover measures across a string of Government departments.

The overall sum has yet to be finalised but it is understood to be in addition to the spending on Covid-19 related measures that has already been flagged for the Budget.

One measure that would be drawn from the funding is a plan from Mr Varadkar for a compensation scheme for businesses that have had to close because of Covid-19 restrictions. It would be a weekly or monthly payment to help them survive rather than cover all of their losses but could help them reopen at a later point.

The cost could be in the order of €50m per week and it would be aimed at helping businesses that have to shut down if Level 4 or 5 restrictions are introduced.

Another source said the contingency funding for Covid-19 and Brexit would be aimed at "supporting businesses, protecting jobs and re-skilling".

Welfare

They also pointed out there would have to be a significant Brexit element whether there was a trade deal between the EU and the UK or not given the huge impact it would have either way.

There will be specific funds for Covid-19 and Brexit. It was unclear last night whether the flagged national recovery fund will form part of the "superfund" to cover Covid-19 and Brexit or if it is separate.

Meanwhile, the Budget will not feature the kind of across-the-board welfare increase that has been a feature of recent years.

However, Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys is expected to secure funding for the €150 increase in the carer's support grant.

This year the grant for people providing care for an older person or someone with a disability was paid to 114,000 carers in June at a rate of €1,700. That is set to increase to €1,850 next year, its highest rate ever.

The payment is made regardless of a carer's means or social insurance contributions.

It is also paid in respect of each person being cared for by an individual carer to take account of the additional cost of providing care and to recognise the particular challenges they face.

Some 11,000 people who were providing care for two or more people received multiple grants this year. The Taoiseach spoke in the Dáil last week of the Government's "great appreciation" of the work of carers and said Mr Donohoe and Mr McGrath "are mindful of that in the context of the forthcoming Budget".

The Irish Independent revealed at the weekend that there is to be a €5-per-week increase for around 200,000 people in receipt of the living alone allowance which will see it go from €14 to €19 per week.

While it is not a boost to the pension, it will increase the income of 160,000 pensioners, widows and widowers.

Another 40,000 people with disabilities are also in receipt of the payment.

Pensions

Around €220m in funding is to be set aside to pay for deferring increasing the State pension age from 66 to 67.

The delay to the rise in the State pension age was a major election issue, with Fianna Fáil promising it would be put off while a review is carried out.

Discussions are to continue today about this year's Christmas bonus with its extension to people on the PUP set to be a major focus.

In the past, certain categories of social welfare recipients had to have been receiving their benefits for 15 months.

The PUP has not been in existence for that long, having been introduced only at the start of the pandemic.

Also forming part of the consideration is whether new PUP entrants in the months ahead would be included in a Christmas bonus or whether there should be a cut-off date.

Income tax cuts and hikes have been ruled out for tomorrow's Budget but carbon tax is set to rise by €7.50 to €33.50 per tonne.

This will increase the cost of petrol and diesel as well as home heating oil but is seen as playing an important role in helping to accelerate the reduction of Ireland's carbon emissions as committed to in the Programme for Government.

A €3.50 weekly increase in the fuel allowance is designed to help vulnerable households.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Green Party has secured €300m for major investment in a nationwide retrofitting project.

The Sunday Independent reported that a large portion of the funding will be used to top up existing grants for heat pumps, solar panels and home insulation.

Retro-fitting homes for energy efficiency is aimed at reducing home heating costs as well has helping in the ­battle against climate change.


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