Written answers

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Photo of Thomas GouldThomas Gould (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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407. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons still awaiting pandemic unemployment payment arrears payments; the average time persons wait for a payment to be made; and the number of successful reviews upon request by month since April 2020, in tabular form. [27901/21]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) has proven to be a vital income support to workers, thousands of whom lost their jobs virtually overnight. Since the introduction of the scheme over 23.7 million payments have been made to over 850,000 people providing income support of some 7.6 billion to date. Within 3 weeks of inception (on 7 April 2020) the scheme made payments to 507,000 people. Over the last 14 months, just under 2 million PUP claims were received and processed.

Arrears arise under the following broad headings. First, there may have been an initial time lag in the commencement of payments. The quickest and most efficient way to apply for PUP is online. Applications received up to Thursday evening are processed for payment that week with payment made on the following Tuesday. Second, arrears may also arise in respect of individual weeks where claims could not be processed due to incomplete applications or data mismatches. Third, arrears may be due where the rate on a claim has been increased with retrospective effect.

In response to the first two issues, my Department developed an automated process, which examines each case and looks at their overall entitlement to payment and matches this against their payment history. As a result, 286,000 people received arrears payments totalling €129 million on 1 December 2020 for unpaid weeks in the period from March to November 2020. Following this, my Department worked to ensure that this automated process can be efficiently replicated on an ongoing basis. Following the reintroduction of Covid health restrictions in December 2020, the numbers in receipt of the PUP increased by almost 200,000 between 22 December and 26 January 2021. Using the automated process outlined above, just over 90,000 people received an arrears payment totalling over €49 million on 20 April in respect of the period from December 2020 to April 2021. This process now runs on a monthly basis and I can inform the Deputy that just under 9,000 people are receiving arrears totalling over €3.7 million on 25 May 2021 in respect of the period from April to 13 May.

In relation to the third issue, cases have mainly emerged where new earnings data has been supplied to the Department or where earnings bands and earnings reference periods have been changed. In September 2020, approximately 15,000 individuals were due arrears of just under €10 million in respect of newly reported earnings, and these were paid at that time. In addition, in October 2020 just over 45,000 people were due arrears following changes to the earnings bands and associated reference periods introduced at that time. These arrears, totalling €14.7 million, were paid in February and March 2021.

In addition to the above, individual cases will arise where arrears may have to be awarded on a manual basis by my Department. However, given the overall number of persons in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the volume of associated transactions, manual processing of arrears payments on a wide scale is neither feasible nor efficient.

The total amount paid by way of arrears as outlined above represents just under 3% of total expenditure on the PUP to date, an indication of the highly effective and speedy response of my Department to the unprecedented challenges of the Covid-19 Pandemic. I can assure the Deputy that my Department is fully committed to ensuring the prompt and timely processing of applications for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, including any associated arrears.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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