Written answers

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Photo of Joe O'BrienJoe O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Green Party)
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435. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if consideration has been given to the creation of a simple back-to-work Covid-19 scheme (details supplied). [16716/20]

Photo of John LahartJohn Lahart (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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437. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to ensure that all those involved in the music industry, such as musicians, giggers, roadies, agents, technicians, sound technicians, ticket sellers and so on, can survive until ready to commence another tourist season; if she will raise the case of many of these professionals who have seen their Covid-19 payments reduced to a level on which many of them cannot survive; and if she can advocate for them. [16924/20]

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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438. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to maintain Covid-19 payments to artists at the higher rate until such time as the economy has recovered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17138/20]

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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439. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to maintain Covid-19 payments at the higher rate to those involved in the entertainment industry until such time as mass gatherings are permitted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17139/20]

Steven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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445. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if assurances will be given to persons who work in the events industry in cases in which their business is continuously impacted by cancellations and-or reduced capacity; and if there is a provision to allow for the continuation of the pandemic unemployment payment in this regard. [17327/20]

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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450. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will address the anomaly in the pandemic unemployment payment in the case of musicians who despite having had proven earnings in excess of €350 per week in 2019 are now on the reduced rate of €203. [16513/20]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 435, 437 to 439, inclusive, 445 and 450 together.

The COVID-19 pandemic unemployment payment was introduced as an emergency measure to meet the surge in unemployment which resulted from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. The Government has set employment recovery as its top priority and the jobs stimulus package to be announced later this month will assist people back into work. Any further changes to the pandemic unemployment payment will be considered in that context.

A two-level payment structure to link the payment to gross prior earnings was recently introduced. Where an employee's gross weekly earnings were €200 or higher there is no change to their rate of payment. If their gross weekly earnings were under €200 the rate of the pandemic unemployment payment was adjusted to €203. Where a person is self-employed their average weekly income for 2018 was used to determine their rate of payment for the pandemic unemployment payment. This is the last tax year for which complete data on self-employed income is available.

The conditions for receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment are that a person must have lost their employment due to the pandemic and are now fully unemployed. A self-employed person must have suffered a collapse in their trading income to the extent that they are available to take up other full-time work. Where a self-employed individual has regular employment or it generates significant income, then they should close their pandemic unemployment payment on the basis that they do not satisfy the conditions for the payment. In cases of doubt where emergency or sporadic work is undertaken, an individual should discuss the matter with the Department.

If a person is ineligible for the pandemic unemployment payment as they are engaged in employment, they may be entitled to support under the jobseekers benefit or jobseekers allowance scheme depending on their individual circumstances. A person in receipt of a jobseeker’s payment may take up employment but they must be unemployed for at least 4 days in 7 consecutive days to be eligible for a payment and continue to satisfy the other qualifying conditions of the schemes. Jobseekers benefit (self-employed) is available for self-employed people who have ceased trading and is not available while a person is engaged in self-employment.

The Enterprise Support Grant has recently been extended and will be made available to small business owners who transition from the pandemic unemployment payment to reopen their business. The grant, of up to €1,000, will be payable to self-employed micro enterprises which employ fewer than 10 people, have an annual turnover of less than €1 million and are not eligible for support from the COVID 19 Business Restart Grant or other similar business reopening grants. The Department is developing the systems to put it into effect and will communicate how to access the grant in the coming weeks.

I trust that this clarifies the matter.

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