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Coronavirus: Over 50,000 laid off workers apply for Government's emergency pay scheme

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Regina Doherty. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Regina Doherty. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Regina Doherty. Photo: Steve Humphreys

OVER 50,000 laid off workers have applied for the Government's new emergency pandemic unemployment payment.

The figures "shows the huge impact that the Covid19 pandemic is having on our economy and on our people," the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection said in a statement.

Workers can apply for the €203 a week payment for six weeks by filing in a one page form.

It differs from jobseeker's benefits as the department is fast tracking the payments so they are lodged in bank accounts as quickly as possible.

Minister Regina Doherty said this is an incredibly difficult time for many people, particularly those people who lose their jobs, even if this loss is temporary.

“The measures taken already are extraordinary but this is an extraordinary time," she said.

"There is great uncertainty and much anxiety about what lies ahead. The loss of a job and an income increases this anxiety and stress. We are doing all we can to help people through this anxiety. The new payment we introduced is just one measure and it means that we can get people into payment as quickly as possible.

"Hopefully this will provide some measure of reassurance to people unfortunate to be laid-off. We are also calling on banks, landlords, utility providers and others to exercise forbearance with regard to payments of mortgages, rent and utility bills.”

She thanked staff for processing 50,000 claims, which represents close to two months normal jobseeker claim-load.

"This was managed in a two day period for a new payment that didn’t exist a week ago, on new systems that had to be developed and implemented and on the basis of new legislation that is going before the Oireachtas tomorrow."

Earlier today, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said the country is now facing very significant job losses and will likely record a budget deficit this year.

Mr Donohoe refused to be drawn on how many jobs could be lost in the coming months amid estimates that as many as 340,000 people could be made unemployed.

However speaking in Government Buildings on Wednesday evening he said: "I can at this point confirm that we are facing into a period of significant job losses, they are very significant and this has already been felt most of the country.”

He said that he would have a clearer idea of the scale of the unemployment crisis facing the State towards the end of this week when Live Register figures for March become available.

He said these figures are “changing rapidly” and that “we are now in the middle of a very significant economic shock”. Plans to deliver a budget surplus this year have been shelved and that we are “very likely we will move into a situation where we have a deficit”, he said.

Mr Donohoe said: “It is the case that those who were at work here with every expectation of continuing to be in work for many months, many years to come now find themselves in a situation in which they are not in work.

“They're worried about how they're going to pay the rent, they're worried about how they're going to pay their mortgage, in relation to their ability to pay their mortgage.”

Mr Donohoe was speaking after meeting with the five main retail banks and the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland where a series of measures to help people impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic were agreed.

These include a three-month break on mortgage and loan repayments for those affected and an increase in contactless payments from €30 to €50.

The flexibility on loans will be available to business and landlords. Mr Donohoe warned that any landlords availing of the break in loan repayments should not be evicting tenants.

“If a landlord availing of a buy-to-let mortgage and availing of flexibility announced today they cannot and they should not evict tenants and that is my clear message to them," he said.

He admitted later however there was no way of forcing landlords not to evict tenants but said he would examine the matter with Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

“We are putting in place really significant measures to our banking system to help those who have loans and mortgages at a time of great risk. For any landlord then to you use that to treat their tenants in a way that is not fair to them, I believe, will not be accepted by broader society and will raise great concerns,” he said.

In response to call from Irish Property Owners Association looking for increases in the Housing Assistance Payment, Mr Donohoe said: "Let me make clear to them my expectation that the first people who should be providing flexibility to their tenants is landlords."

Mr Donohoe said steps were being taken to ensure that the measures announced today from retail banks will also be applied to those whose mortgages and loans are with non-bank lenders.

“We do want to be in a position that the framework that is being offered here is also applicable to non-bank lenders as well. That will take further work because there is some work from a regulatory point of view that needs to be done before that assurance can be given," he said.

Earlier, the chief executive of the BPFI Brian Hayes said the measures in place for people impacted by the crisis were not "a holiday" but a "break" and that their loan obligations will have to be met eventually. He said interest would still accrue on deferred loan repayments which would be "a very small sum of money" over a lifelong mortgage.

"I hope today's announcement will give some relief to people," he said.

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