Plans to announce a reduction in the Pandemic Unemployment Payment when many workers still don’t know when they will get their jobs back are creating a “huge amount of anxiety for a lot of people.”
The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar last night told his Parliamentary Party that the support payment will be phased out from October onwards.
He said plans for the reduction will be announced sometime next week.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Sinn Féin spokesperson on public expenditure Mairéad Farrell said the announcement will “come as a surprise” to the thousands of people who still have no idea when their jobs will return.
“These people have not been able to return to work through absolutely no fault of their own and I think to create this uncertainty in relation to what kind of income they will have going forward, at a time when they don’t know when they will be returning to work really is quite unhelpful,” she said. “It creates a huge amount of anxiety for a lot of people.
Pandemic Unemployment Payment
She said the phased reopening of society is very welcome – but warned that the support payments must remain in place until the country is fully reopened.
“We all hope that by October, sectors will be able to go back to work but what we have at this moment in time is that the only assurance people who have been locked out of their employment is that their Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be tapering off from October,” she said.
She said the uncertainty has forced many workers to leave industries like hospitality for good.
“The Government kept telling us they were going to taper off the Pandemic Unemployment Payment,” she said.
“They were telling us, ‘in a number of weeks we will make a decision, in a number of months we will make a decision, it will be cut off by X, Y and Z,’ so people have had to look elsewhere.”
Also on the show, public affairs consultant Gerard Howlin warned that the Government must face up to the fact that many people will never be returning to their old jobs because “the businesses in which they worked are gone.”
“When this is over, hopefully there will be a big rebound in the economy. But the best rebound possible is going to leave a lot of businesses permanently shuttered with no jobs to go back to,” he said.
“The sooner that is faced up to is best. The ultimate anxiety by the way will be a ballooning deficit that bears down on services that the most vulnerable in our society will need. Those cuts I think will be felt very soon.”
He said the State simply can’t continue spending at current levels while maintaining essential services.
“These payments were brought in in spring of 2020 in a context where it was believed they might go on for a couple of months,” he said.
“The autumn of this year is 18 months. It is a year and a half. It is an additional €40bn in deficit.”
He said the “very harsh reality” is that the PUP payment has become increasingly unaffordable.
“That has to be faced up to and I think people have to be told that in the fourth quarter of this year, these payments will be reduced so that on January 1st next year they will be gone,” he said.
“The politics of that are very hard and I think that is what we are hearing this morning but what this country needs is a Government and an opposition that is prepared to put the public interest, in terms of the public finances, first.”
You can listen back here: