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Q&A: Government steps up intense efforts to protect workers and the economy

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Plans: Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty at a press briefing yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Plans: Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty at a press briefing yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Plans: Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty at a press briefing yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

What's happening?

The Government has announced a new income support package for workers who are hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Can you sum it up in a nutshell?

A special unemployment payment for those who have been laid-off due to the pandemic since last week is increasing by €147.

It is called the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

The Government is also going to start subsidising wages to keep people in their jobs.

 

How much is this welfare payment rising by?

It will increase from €203 to €350 a week. It is currently worth the same amount as the dole.

But Jobseeker's Benefit will remain at the regular rate of €203 a week for those who are unemployed for reasons other than the virus.

 

How many are claiming the pandemic welfare payment so far?

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty said 118,000 people had applied for it.

 

Who is the wage subsidy scheme for?

It aims to keep workers in jobs by subsidising their wages.

The Government will pay 70pc of wages up to €410 a week (tax free) on incomes up to €38,000.

The subsidy will be capped at €350 on income between €38,000 and €76,000.

 

Will employers pay anything?

The Government has said that employers are expected "to make best efforts" to pay as close to full wages as possible.

 

How will the Government know if a company is really at risk of laying off staff?

Employers will have to show the Revenue Commissioners they have suffered a reduction in income of at least 25pc and provide evidence of cashflow difficulties.

The Government said there will be "severe penalties" for any abuse of the scheme.

 

How long will this wage subsidy last?

It will run for 12 weeks.

 

Why is the Government doing this?

More than 140,000 workers have already been laid off and thousands more may be set to join them after the Government announced the closure of non-essential businesses today.

The aim of the scheme is to guarantee workers' income during the crisis, keep their employers afloat and ultimately avoid another recession.

It also aims to keep employees connected to their employers by remaining on the payroll.

The logic is that this will make it easier for businesses to restart when the crisis ends.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Government would ensure that the impact on those who had lost their jobs or had their hours or income reduced was minimised as far as 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," he said.

 

Who's going to pay for it?

Taxpayers. The money will be borrowed.

 

How much will it cost?

€3.7bn.

 

When can I get it?

Government ministers said yesterday that the increased payment and the new scheme should be in place by the end of the week.

 

What about the self-employed?

They can claim the increased pandemic unemployment payment of €350 a week.

 

Will the special illness benefit for those who have the virus or are self-isolated change?

Yes. The coronavirus illness benefit payment is rising to €350 a week as well.

 

Is the income support scheme as good as the wage subsidy scheme announced by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson?

It may be better in terms of the increased welfare payment, but the British Conservative government has agreed to fund up to 80pc of workers' wages to a limit of €2,700 a month.

Irish Independent