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Social Protection Minister admits up to half a million people could lose jobs due to coronavirus pandemic


Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

SOCIAL Protection Minister Regina Doherty has said projections that between 450,000 and 500,000 could lose their jobs as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic could be accurate. 

Ms Doherty said that what happened over the course of several months during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 had now “happened over the last three days”.

She said the Government are “looking at everything” when asked about the possibility of introducing a universal basic income or a one-off payment to workers of more than €1,000 as has been floated by US President Donald Trump in recent days.

Asked about projections that between 450,000 and 500,000 people may find themselves out of work in the coming weeks, Ms Doherty said “it could be potentially as drastic” as those figures. “I mean we haven’t overused the word unprecedented in the past few days but it has been that," she said.

Outlining the numbers who could be affected by the crisis, she said there are 140,000 people employed in the hospitality sector, 54,000 in the accommodation sector and 200,000 in retail. “These are just the obvious industries that may have affected but there are other businesses,” she said.

“Every single day there is another industry that I didn’t think was going to be affected yesterday is affected today. So the numbers could potentially be as high as people are saying.”

She was speaking at a press conference on Wednesday where the Government outlined supports available to businesses and employees impacted.

Already some 58,000 applications for the special Covid-19 payment for those whose incomes have been impacted have been made, with 43,000 of these processed by the Department of Employment and payments to go out before the end of the week.

Ms Doherty also announced that social welfare payments would now be distributed fortnightly rather than every week to ensure that those who still drawn down their money via their local social welfare office do not have to do so as often.

She said the Government was “going to do absolutely everything we can to ensure whoever needs support [gets it]”.

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Business Minister Heather Humphreys outlined a series of supports for firms impacted by the crisis. She is writing to all 250,000 companies registered with Companies Registration Office to these available supports available and to notify them that all annual returns to the CRO can be filed up to June 30.

IDA Ireland chief executive Martin Shanahan said conditions are "extremely challenging" for global growth and trade. "As one of the most open economies in the world Ireland cannot escape this impact,” Mr Shanahan said.

The State's industrial development agency is open for business "albeit virtually”, he said.

Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said things are moving incredibly quickly and that clients are “telling us they are facing serious challenges”. She said the food, manufacturing, airline travel, and consumer technology sectors are all being significantly impacted.

Oisin Geoghegan from Local Enterprise Offices said some small businesses could access the Covid-19 loan scheme from Microfinance Ireland. If they can show their sales or orders are reduced by 15pc or more small firms can drawn down up to €50,000 with six-month moratorium on repayments and no interest on the first six months.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland