Seanad debates

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Social Welfare (Covid-19) (Amendment) Bill 2020: Second Stage


1:00 pm

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

The vast majority of these people were not going on holidays. They were leaving the country. Once someone lives outside this country, he or she is not entitled to the payments. There are a small number of people who may have travelled abroad while genuinely unaware of the criteria. We will review those cases.

Self-employed people eligible for the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment, including those in the arts and entertainment sector, have been assessed based on the returns they made to the Revenue Commissioners for their 2018 earnings. If they believe an assessment of their 2019 earnings would produce a better outcome, they can submit the evidence of those earnings to the Department. They should also file their 2019 accounts with Revenue.

People aged 66 years and older are already receiving a social protection income through the State pension framework. People embrace that fact. Such persons receive either the contributory State pension based on pay-related social insurance, PRSI contributions, or the non-contributory means-tested pension. The maximum weekly payment to someone in receipt of the contributory State pension in a two-person household with an adult dependent who is over 66 is €470. The maximum rate of payment to a recipient of the non-contributory pension living in a two-person household is €393.60. People over 66 are also entitled to other benefits such as the free travel pass.

Regarding workers in Northern Ireland, the position for frontier workers is no different with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment than with any other unemployment benefit. Members will know that EU regulations govern our treatment of frontier workers. We have correctly followed the same approach here. Under the current EU rules, the member state of residence is the member state responsible for the payment of unemployment benefit. I have listened to the Sinn Féin Members during this debate and I have to say there is a certain hypocrisy here. Their party is in government in Northern Ireland, where people who lost their job due to Covid-19 receive €100 as opposed to €350 here. A person under 25 who lost his or her job in Northern Ireland receives less than €60 a week. Sinn Féin criticises this Government when it is providing payment that is many times what Sinn Féin provides to people in Northern Ireland.

Senator Carrigy referred to payments made via post offices. We have changed some of the payments. They are now made on a weekly basis. The restored payments are the schemes classified as short term. They include the one-parent family payment, the working family payment, illness benefit, maternity benefit, paternity benefit, jobseeker's allowance and jobseeker's benefit.They will all be weekly payments from 17 August. Some recipients will get their payments on 10 August. The only ones that have not been changed yet are pensions, disability allowance, carer's allowance and carer's benefit. Based on public health advice, it was felt that recipients of these payments should not be going out often as they are at more risk. We will review this in light of public health advice.

I think I have covered most of the issues that were raised here. I am happy to answer any further questions as we proceed.


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