Minister admits Covid-19 epidemic could push jobless numbers up to 500,000

The Minister for Social Protection has acknowledged that Ireland’s jobless figures could rise as high as 500,000 as a result of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Minister admits Covid-19 epidemic could push jobless numbers up to 500,000

The Minister for Social Protection has acknowledged that Ireland’s jobless figures could rise as high as 500,000 as a result of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Speaking at a press conference at Government Buildings in Dublin to outline what supports for businesses are available Minister Regina Doherty acknowledged that “we’re in a very different place with our modelling than we were last week”.

“Every day I’m seeing a new industry affected that I didn’t think was going to be,” she said.

She said that the numbers “could well be as drastic” as the worst-case scenario being posited by economic commentators at present.

The Minister said that there had been 58,000 individual applications made for the new Covid-19 jobseekers benefit, with 43,000 approved to date, with those people expected to receive payments from the beginning of next week. Updates on the situation are set to begin on a daily basis from next week, Ms Doherty said.

Some 20,000 people had applied to her department last Friday alone, she said.

Both the jobseekers benefit and the employer-refund scheme, which sees companies that cannot afford to pay their employees reimbursed by the State, are paid at a rate of €203 per week.

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys said that the new supports available for businesses would prioritise those concerns’ access to everyday capital.

Those supports include a €200m working capital scheme for those businesses impacted by the virus epidemic, with loans of up to €1.5m being made available at reduced rates and the first €500,000 available unsecured, while applications can be made through the website of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI).

She said that a €200m package for businesses which need to restructure in the circumstances is available through Enterprise Ireland, while the maximum loan available via Microfinance Ireland has been increased to €250,000 to support sole traders and firms with up to nine employees.

Meanwhile, the credit guarantee scheme will allow for loans of up to €1m for impacted businesses via Ireland’s pillar retail banks.

Minister Humphreys said she is today writing to all 250,000 companies registered in Ireland in order to highlight the various supports which have been made available as part of the Government’s €3bn Covid-19 bailout package agreed last week.

She added that all annual returns due to be filed with the Registrar of Companies between now and June 30 will be considered to have been filed on time.

Her department is operating a business support call centre, contactable on 01 631200, she said.

In terms of reports that insurers are refusing to come to the aid of public houses which have been forced to close as a result of the epidemic, Minister Humphreys said she had written to industry representative body Insurance Ireland to query the veracity of those reports.

The two ministers were joined at the conference by both Martin Shanahan, CEO of the IDA, and Julie Sinnamon, chief executive with entrepreneurial body Enterprise Ireland.

Mr Shanahan said that his agency’s main focus at present is on supporting and engaging with its 1,500 client companies, the majority of which are operational and open for business, though many are working remotely.

Ms Sinnamon meanwhile said that much of the mitigation preparation that had gone into the Brexit deadline was being echoed by the requirements of the Covid-19 situation.

She said that all companies should take a “no regrets” approach to their preparations so that none should ever wonder what might have been after the fact.

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