Thursday, 15 October 2020
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I agree that we need to follow the public health advice, look at how we can limit our social contacts, maintain distance from each other and dig deep at this time but it is very difficult. There is also a role for the State here in terms of the restrictions that have been introduced. When Donegal was moved to level 3, there was a surge there in claims for the pandemic unemployment payment. The number of claimants in that county increased by one third. Level 4 restrictions will result in other people losing their jobs, not only in Donegal but in Cavan and Monaghan. As the Tánaiste said, this virus is not unique to those counties and others may follow the course of action taken in those three counties. The average wage for people who are now availing of the pandemic unemployment payment at a rate of €300 per week was €560 per week. The Government has cut that support. At a time when restrictions that are being introduced by Government are resulting in people losing their jobs there is a responsibility on Government to support that income. I accept it cannot support all of it but €350 per week was the appropriate amount in April, May and June and it is the appropriate amount now. People are facing into winter and Christmas and they do not know how they will get by because the Government has cut their payments by €50, it being a significant amount for many of those who have to, as I said, pay bills, mortgage or rent and put food on the table. I am asking the Government to do the right thing. Given the increased level of restrictions Government needs to reverse the cut to the pandemic unemployment payment and to return the top rate to €350 per week.