Tuesday, 8 September 2020
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
639. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the pandemic unemployment payment of €350 per week will be reinstated for all members of an association (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21117/20]
645. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the measures being taken to assist the taxi industry during the Covid-19 pandemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21776/20]
648. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her Department and the Department of Social Protection have estimated the cost of maintaining the pandemic unemployment payment at the previous €350 a week for workers in the entertainment and arts sectors shut down and restricted by Covid-19 health measures by each month that will be required; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22279/20]
652. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the Covid-19 unemployment benefit for the self-employed will be requalified as a subsidy for the self-employed; and if it will be adjusted to the employee subsidy rate with retroactive effect since the beginning of the pandemic in order to comply with Article 40.1 of the Constitution which upheld that all citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law. [21145/20]
653. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the Covid-19 support payment will be reinstated for self-employed persons in the music and entertainment industry here (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21154/20]
656. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason rules regarding the pandemic unemployment payment were changed on the website of her Department; the date the rules were changed; the reason genuinely seeking work was added; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21157/20]
657. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the legal remit for changing how to qualify section of pandemic unemployment payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21158/20]
666. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her announcement with regard to the pandemic unemployment payment in terms of those in receipt of it being active jobseekers will extend to those self-employed persons who through no fault of their own cannot work at their chosen employment for now; if not, the reason; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21243/20]
667. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the way in which persons on payments and who must show that they are genuinely seeking work can do so in an industry that remains shut down; her plans in this regard in view of the fact that they are being threatened with payment cancellations despite late venues and so on remaining closed; the way in which persons in the arts, music and entertainment industry can be assisted by her Department to find work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21245/20]
747. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if specific Covid-19 payments will be introduced for publicans in view of the ongoing embargo preventing them from trading; the supports that will be put in place to protect the industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22298/20]
764. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will continue to pay the pandemic unemployment payment at the full rate of €350 for claimants that were working in public houses and bars in view of the fact that these businesses still remain closed and the likelihood that they will remain closed for many more weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22539/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 639, 645, 648, 652, 653, 656, 657, 666, 667, 747 and 764 together.
The Department is aware that there are some sectors of the economy that will not reopen for some time and it will take a common-sense approach where people who are in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment expect to return to their previous employment or reopen their business as soon as they are able to do so. They may continue to receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment which has been extended to 1 April 2021 as part of the July Stimulus Package.
From 17 September 2020 until 31 January 2021 the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be paid at 3 rates depending on prior earnings. People who previously earned over €300 per week will receive €300 per week, people who earned €200 to €300 will receive €250 and people who earned less than €200 will receive €203. The payment rates will be further calibrated in February and April next year. The changes to the rate are necessary to ensure that it is targeted and sustainable.
In determining the appropriate rate of Pandemic Unemployment Payment in the case of self-employed individuals, my Department recently announced that it will take 2019 earnings into consideration where a person files their returns to Revenue. Prior to this, the information used for the self-employed referred to that of 2018, which is the last tax year for which complete verifiable data on self-employed income is available. This change may provide for an increased rate of payment depending on an individual’s particular circumstances. Reviews can be submitted to PUPRerate@welfare.ie and should be accompanied by supporting documentation.
In order to give every opportunity to employed and self-employed workers to receive the highest possible rate of Pandemic Unemployment Payment, my Department will undertake five distinct calculations and base the individual’s Pandemic Unemployment rate on the one that is most financially advantageous to each customer. This will be achieved by undertaking an individual calculation of each customer’s rate based on their earnings from employment, self-employment and from a combination of both.
The functionality to facilitate this calculation is currently being developed and will be in place for the re-rating of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment on the 17thof September. At that point anyone who is on the reduced rate of Pandemic Unemployment Payment since June and would be better off under this calculation will receive the benefit of the new calculation backdated to the rate change introduced in June.
In order to be eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment an individual must have lost their employment due to the pandemic. A self-employed person must have suffered a reduction in their trading income to the extent that they are available to take up other full-time work. This allows some limited scope for a self-employed person to engage in once-off or emergency work and still retain eligibility for this payment. In this instance once-off or emergency work would mean occasional,irregular, infrequent, or isolated events, where there is a clear divergence from previous employment patterns.
If a person is ineligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment as they are engaged in regular employment, they may be entitled to income support under the jobseekers schemes depending on their circumstances. The maximum weekly rate for the jobseekers schemes is €203 and increases may also be paid for any qualifying adults and children.
The information published online regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment has changed over the last number of months to reflect the evolution of the payment from an initial 6 week emergency income support, to that of an ongoing support now available until April 2021, for those who may need it.
Key changes to the payment “rules” include the following, all of which were published on the Pandemic Unemployment Page or related pages, on the Gov.ie website;
- The increase in the value of the payment to €350 from an initial rate of €203 on 24 March 2020
- The initial extension of the payment until August 10, as announced on 5 June 2020
- The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment Rate Changes announced on 3 July 2020
- The need to confirm eligibility to continue to receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment in July 2020
- The extension of the payment to April 2021, and associated new payment rates, announced as part of the July Stimulus package on 23 July 2020
- The ability of self-employed people to access a re-rate service for their COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment should they be dissatisfied with the payment rate allocated to them
- Access to COVID-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit and the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for people living in Direct Provision on 7 August 2020.
The requirement to be genuinely seeking work is a long standing statutory requirement for anyone in receipt of a jobseekers payment and also applies to the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. To continue to maintain entitlement to this payment a person must satisfy the “genuinely seeking work” condition. The Department has been clear that it will take a reasonable and flexible approach by not enforcing this condition in respect of workers who remain temporarily laid off in sectors that have not re-opened (e.g. bars, arts and entertainment) due to Covid-19 restrictions, and who are expected to return to their employment when their sector of occupation re-opens. This update was made to the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment page on the Department website on 27 July 2020.
My Department cannot estimate the cost of maintaining the Pandemic Unemployment Rate at the €350 rate for people who work in the arts and entertainment industry as they may be categorised as working in other technical sectors/industries.
On 14 August I announced that applications have opened for the Enterprise Support Grant. The Enterprise Support Grant previously supported entrepreneurs who were setting up new enterprises but has now been revamped to specifically provide once-off supports for self-employed people who have been severely impacted and have had to cease operations as a result of the Pandemic. The grant of up to €1000 is designed to help the self- employed small business owners who transition from the Pandemic Unemployment Payment to re-open their business. It will be payable to self-employed micro enterprises that are not eligible for support from the COVID 19 Business Restart Grant or other similar business reopening grants. A person must apply for the Enterprise Support Grant within 4 weeks of closing their Pandemic Unemployment Payment claim. Details on the application process to access this grant is available on www.gov.ie.
In recognition of the severe impact of COVID-19 on the Pubs Industry the Government has announced a further €16 million support package for pubs, bars and niteclubs. Details of the package are available on the Department of Trade Enterprise and Employment website at www.dbei.ie
Where a person is experiencing financial hardship they can apply for assistance through the means tested Supplementary Welfare Allowance including Exceptional and Urgent Needs Payments. Queries in relation to eligibility should be made by phone to the local Intreo Centre.
I hope that this clarifies the position at this time.
640. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason the pandemic unemployment payment for a person (details supplied) was cut despite earnings in excess of €200 per week in 2018 and 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21187/20]
Following a review, the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) for the person concerned has been rerated back to €350 with effect from 26/06/2020 and all arrears due will be paid in the coming week.
The person concerned closed his PUP claim on 02/09/2020 on the basis that he was returning to work.
I trust this clarifies the matter.