The Sinn Féin leader says pulling back on COVID payments while cases are rising around the country is “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
Mary Lou McDonald said we are facing into a “very difficult six months” and warned that the cuts will simply push the economy into deep crisis.
As of last week, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment was split into three rates – €300 for people who were earning over €300 per week; €250 for those earning €200-300; and €203 for those earning less than €200.
Meanwhile, the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, which offered businesses subsidies of up to €410 per week, was replaced by the Employment Wage Subsidy which offers a maximum of €203.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Deputy McDonald said it is wrong to cut payments while the country is facing into further crisis.
“People are down money,” she said. “We are still in a situation of crisis.
“Key sectors of the economy cannot operate at all or are operating in a very limited way.
“We know from the Government’s plan that we will move from a period of lighter restrictions to tighter restrictions depending on the behaviour of the virus and consequently people will be sent home.”
She said concerns that people were earning more through the payments than they were when they were working were addressed as far back as June and is no longer the case.
She said cutting payments while the country is facing into such a difficult period is counterproductive.
“What we have done is defended the right of people to have a capacity for a decent standard of living,” she said.
“We have also made the point that at a time when the economy is in deep crisis, it serves no useful purpose to either drive households into debt or to depress the amount of money that can actually circulate in the economy albeit in limited ways.
“That is cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
Deputy McDonald said the fact that the cuts took effect the same day that 10 advisers were approved for junior ministers demonstrates just how out of touch this Government is.
“I think all of us accept that people in Government need to have good advice and therefor need advisers,” she said. “I think what has raised eyebrows in terms of this Government is the number of advisers.
“We know for example that between the three-party leaders alone – Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan, they have 17 advisers.
“That is before you count media people and press advisers. That to me, is excessive and I think yesterday, the announcement of these 10 additional advisers just adds to the problem.
“Good advice is necessary but so is value for money and it should be borne in mind that people in Government have the entire apparatus of the State, the civil service, the public service, all of whom are working to keep the show on the road and some of whom have incredible levels of expertise and are available to all who take on a Government role.”
She rejected the Taoiseach’s criticism of Sinn Féin’s use of advisers in the North – noting that the entire Northern Executive has the capacity to employ a maximum of 16 advisers.