Nobody will lose out immediately as a result of plans to phase out the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, the Public Expenditure Minister has said.
Michael McGrath says there'll be no "cliff-edge" end to the emergency payment, but there is a need to move back towards a "more normal social welfare system".
Cabinet have been meeting today to sign off on its National Economic Plan, aimed at setting out recovery targets for creating jobs over the next 18 months.
They've also finalised the plans for the future of the PUP.
It's to be phased out from September and will be stopped entirely early next year, with final payments expected on February 8th 2022.
The phasing out of the payment will happen in three stages, with PUP recipients set to see €50 cuts to the weekly rate in each phase of the process.
The PUP scheme will close to new applicants from July 1st, while it will end for students when the new academic year starts in September as "students do not qualify for unemployment payments while at college".
On Newstalk Breakfast, Minister McGrath said the PUP was a vital intervention, but there's a need to 'carefully and gradually' move back towards normal.
He said: “Nobody is going to lose out immediately as a result of any announcement we make today.
“There won’t be a cliff-edge in July - we will be looking at an extension to the PUP, but also laying out a pathway towards the normalisation of our social welfare code and ultimately unwinding a payment that is pandemic-related and didn’t exist 15 months ago.”
He said around €7.5 billion has been paid out in PUP to date, but ministers are expecting hundreds of thousands of people to come off the payment in the coming weeks and months as the economy reopens and restrictions ease.
'Let’s not pretend everything is reopened'
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said "continued and targeted support" must continue for workers and businesses that continue to be affected by restrictions.
Also speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, he said: “You’re going to see more and more people come off the PUP and go back into employment. People want to be working - that’s the reality.
“But there’s also another reality: there [still] are restrictions here. Let’s not pretend everything is reopened. And even in some sectors where it has reopened, it has reopened with serious restrictions in terms of distancing - meaning the same levels of staff can’t come back.”
Deputy Doherty suggested the lower PUP payments will mean huge reductions in affected families' income.
He said Sinn Féin is not suggesting the pandemic payment just remains forever, as people will be going to go back to work.
However, he suggested the onus is on the Government to support those whose jobs aren’t there due to the impact of restrictions.