Q&A: How you can claim social welfare if affected by Covid-19

Some 140,000 workers are estimated to have been laid off around the country as shops, restaurants, bars, creches, gyms and other customer-facing businesses close their doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Q&A: How you can claim social welfare if affected by Covid-19

Additional reporting by Eoin English

"We are in a desperate situation."

Those were the words of one anxious worker temporarily laid off from a Cork city bar, as worries about health costs, rents and everyday expenditure were laid bare.

Some 140,000 workers are estimated to have been laid off around the country as shops, restaurants, bars, creches, gyms and other customer-facing businesses close their doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection said a newly introduced Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost their jobs.

The payment has a one–page application form and will be paid for over six weeks at a flat rate payment of €203 per week for jobseekers.

The application can be done online and applicants do not need to attend their Intreo offices, the Department said.

Once the form is downloaded online, it should be sent off by Freepost, according to instructions.

Individuals applying for the payment will be required to apply for the normal jobseeker’s payments within this six-week period.

Once this normal jobseeker claim is subsequently received, the department will process the claims and accommodate payments at that time, the Department added. It will involve backdating increased payments for certain customers, it said.

The new measures provide little comfort to those outside social welfare offices.

As a long queue formed outside Cork’’s social welfare office, the barman from the well-known city centre bar said everyone understands why the business closures had to happen, but he said the social welfare payments he is in line to get won’’t cover his rent.

"We are in a desperate situation. We all accept that this has to happen for the sake of our health, but what do I do if I can’’t pay the rent?" he said.

We need so much more help and support from the government. Landlords need to be told to back off.

The emergency payments do not address those who have not contributed to PSRI for more than a year.

The Department also urged employers to pay their workers €203 per week "if at all possible", with the promise that businesses will be entitled to refunds for complying with the request.

However, the Department acknowledged the refund process could take "some time to process".

In the meantime, banks will provide working capital finance in the form of overdrafts or short-term loans to cover costs, Minister Regina Doherty said.

These measures, she said, mean workers will not have to personally submit a jobseeker’’s claim, and that continuity in the employer-employee relationship remains unbroken.

Chambers Ireland, the group representing chambers of commerce nationwide, urged creditors to show "forbearance and flexibility in this unique situation" when it comes to struggling businesses, adding that banks have a "significant role to play in mitigating the worst of this crisis".

FAQs for workers who have lost employment due to Covid-19

By Pádraig Hoare

  • What is the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment? Answer: The new payment is available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost employment due to a downturn in economic activity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Who may be eligible? It is estimated that up to 140,000 have been laid off due to the Covid-19 outbreak’’s impact. It is thought that 70,000 restaurant employees and 50,000 bar staff have been affected. Up to 20,000 childcare workers are also impacted.
  • How much is the payment? The payment will be paid for a period of six weeks at a flat rate payment of €203 per week for jobseekers, and lasts for six weeks.
  • How does a laid-off worker access it? The payment has a one–page application form that can be downloaded online, and sent off by Freepost to be processed.
  • Do I need to go to my local Intreo office to claim the payment? No. The downloaded and filled form must be sent to PO BOX 12896 Dublin 1.
  • What happens then? Apply for Jobseekers’’ within six weeks to ensure you continue to receive a payment (if applicable) after the emergency payment has finished. Once this normal Jobseekers’’ claim is received, the Department will process these claims and reconcile payments at that time. This will involve backdating increased payments for certain customers.
  • Is the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment different to the Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit? Yes. This is payment for those diagnosed with Covid-19, or are medically certified to self-isolate as a result of Covid-19. Illness benefit for actual Covid-19 absences is paid at a rate of €305 per week. This is available to employees and the self-employed.
  • How are employers asked to help the process? Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty is asking employers, if at all possible, to continue to pay workers during this period — at least at the jobseeker rate of €203 per week.
  • How is that different from the emergency unemployment payment? Minister Doherty said it will offer continuity for employers’’ and employees’’ relationships, and the employee doesn’’t have to do anything if the employer agrees to pay the €203.
  • Why would an employer comply with such a request? If a business continues to pay employees €203 per week where it can, it will be reimbursed at a later date.
  • How long will reimbursements take for businesses? Minister Doherty said refunds will take some time to process but, in the meantime, the banks will provide working capital finance in the form of overdrafts or short-term loans to cover costs.

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