The Government has announced a package worth nearly €4bn to support businesses through the next few weeks of the COVID-19 crisis.
In an announcement this afternoon, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also set out a range of new measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.
On supporting jobs, he said it was essential to “maintain social solidarity and a sense of community in this time of trial.”
He said a temporary wage subsidy was being introduced to encourage employers and companies that have been badly affected by the emergency to keep staff on the payroll.
The scheme will see the Government funding up to 70% of salaries, up to a maximum of €38,000 per year.
Mr Varadkar said the payment would equate to take-home pay of €410 per week for an employee earning €38,000.
Companies can make the payment to their staff on a tax-free basis and then claim a refund from the State.
Employers are expected to "make best efforts" to keep their employees wages as close to their full income as possible throughout the subsidised period.
They will have to declare to Revenue that have experienced a minimum 25% decline in turnover as result of the outbreak and are no longer able to pay normal wages.
COVID-19 Unemployment Payment
He said the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment would also be raised to €350 per week, "in recognition of the fact that so many fellow citizens have lost their jobs so suddenly.”
The Taoiseach said the payment equates to around 75% of average earnings in the sectors most affected and “compares favourably with what is being done in other jurisdictions.”
The payment will also be available to the self-employed.
Here's a summary of the government's financial support scheme pic.twitter.com/XonP5C4SkB
— Seán Defoe (@SeanDefoe) March 24, 2020
COVID-19 Illness Benefit
Meanwhile the COVID-19 Illness benefit will also be increased to €350 per week.
The payment is available to people who are self-isolating and can be topped up with private funds by employers.
The package, which also includes enhanced protections for people struggling to pay their mortgage, rent or utility bills will cost the Exchequer €3.7bn over the next three months.
“The cost of all of this will be great,” said Mr Varadkar. “Many billions of Euros in the coming months.”
“But we can bear it and we will be able to pay it back as a nation.
“We do so willingly because it is the right thing to do and because we owe it to our fellow citizens.”
Mr Varadkar said today's announcements were made up of "unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented emergency."
"We cannot stop this virus but working together we can slow it in its tracks and push it back," he said.
"These are extraordinarily difficult times for everyone – in Ireland and around the world.
"But no matter what happens, we will always put your life and your health ahead of any other concern.
"All our resources are being deployed in this great national effort and I know that the Irish people will continue to face this head-on, to make the changes that are required and pull through to the other side."
Major job losses
The Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the virus presents a “once in a century challenge” to Irish society.
“I think it is almost impossible really to predict the scale of the employment loss,” she said.
“I know I am record on one day last week saying that maybe some 400,000 jobs may go – but I actually believe that is a conservative figure.
“Because job losses of the scale predicted will pose a threat of significant societal effect.
“I think that is why, since the crisis first began, we immediately introduced a system of emergency payments to get money into people’s hands fast until we had designed a more robust response.”
The Business Minister Heather Humphreys said maintaining the link between employer and employee will ensure the country is best placed to kick-start the economy when the crisis is over.
“Through the measures announced today, we want to ensure that businesses are able to keep their employees on the books so that when this crisis ends, Ireland and our citizens can get back to work as quickly as possible,” she said.
She also thanked retail staff and everyone along the supply line for the work ensuring there is food available on supermarket shelves.
More information on the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment can be found here