One week’s extra payment of the state pension and social welfare to 1.4 million people this autumn is being considered by the Government as part of the budget.
A double payment — akin to the traditional ‘Christmas bonus’ given to all pensioners and welfare recipients in December — is now being considered for the autumn, as part of a number of immediate one-off measures to help ease the cost-of-living crisis.
The measure would cost about €350m and while it would be announced on budget day, which is now set for late September, it would be separate to the tax and spending package for 2023.
A government source said a double welfare payment was an obvious measure that would immediately help those in need with the cost-of-living pressures.
Eligibility criteria that normally apply for the Christmas bonus, including being on jobseekers’ allowance for at least 12 months, could be relaxed. Extra fuel-allowance payments to eligible households, and another €200 electricity credit for all households are also being considered as part of the one-off measures.
There is some resistance in Fianna Fáil to another €200 electricity credit for all households, as it is not means-tested and would go to wealthy households that may not need it. Fine Gael is believed to be more in favour of a universal payment, which would cost around €400m.
The budget is now likely to be brought forward by two weeks, with multiple government sources this weekend saying Tuesday, September 27, is the most likely date for the announcement, though this is not yet finalised. This would mean the budget would take place just days before the Fianna Fáil ard fheis.
The one-off measures to help households will be separate from the budget package for next year, which is expected to include significant increases in core social-welfare payments, childcare subsidies, the indexation of the tax bands to account for the rise in inflation, and the possible reduction of student fees.
The Green Party is also seeking changes to the working-family payment that would raise the threshold which families can earn and still qualify for a payment of at least €20 a week. It is calculated on the basis of household income and the number of dependent children.
The amount of extra expenditure available to the Government will be outlined in the Summer Economic Statement which is being published tomorrow.
Overall, the Government is banking on spending an extra €4bn next year, with €2.2bn of this allocated to keeping up with demographic changes and the existing public-sector pay deal, as well as an additional €800m in capital expenditure.
This leaves €1bn for extra public expenditure, but this will increase in order to pay for welfare increases, A suggested increase of at least €10 in weekly welfare payments will cost €750m alone.