Covid-19 payments to cost State up to €5bn

Almost one million people are now either unemployed or receiving some form of Covid-19 emergency payment — just over four weeks since the lockdown started.
Covid-19 payments to cost State up to €5bn
The cost of the €350-a-week pandemic payment and the wage-support schemes alone have now been budgeted at €4bn-€5bn over 12 weeks — up from an original estimate of €3.7bn, the Department of Finance said. File picture.

Almost one million people are now either unemployed or receiving some form of Covid-19 emergency payment — just over four weeks since the lockdown started.

It comes as a further 38 deaths from the virus were confirmed, bringing the overall toll to 444.

The cost of the €350-a-week pandemic payment and the wage-support schemes alone have now been budgeted at €4bn-€5bn over 12 weeks — up from an original estimate of €3.7bn, the Department of Finance said.

The huge and rapid increase in both unemployment and the number of people whose wages are subsidised means over half of all private-sector workers are receiving jobs-related payments from the Government.

The numbers include 533,000 people on the main €350-a-week pandemic payment, and 210,000 people on the live register. In addition, Revenue chairman Niall Cody said 255,000 people had availed of at least one payment under the wage-subsidy scheme since its launch — an increase of 35,600 people availing of the scheme in one week.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he had ordered changes to the scheme “to iron out anomalies” for earners on less than €500 a week, equivalent to €31,000 a year; and for earners on more than €586 a week, or €38,000 a year. The subsidy rises to 85% of pay from 70% at some wage bands.

Patricia King, general secretary at Ictu, said: “Increasing the wage replacement rate from 70% to 85% on earnings up to €24,400 and the value of the subsidy to €350 on earnings between €24,400 and €31,000 goes a distance in doing what we asked of government, and importantly, protects jobs and the worker-employer relationship during the emergency to facilitate a rapid recovery.”

Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said the wage-support scheme will help both firms and employees to bounce back after the crisis.

Meanwhile, the European Commission held out hope for a co-ordinated approach across the EU when the time comes for lifting the health restrictions. It said its “roadmap” of guidelines are based on science and expanding testing for the virus.

However, in a conference call with other EU health ministers, Simon Harris stressed Ireland was not yet in a position to ease restrictions on movement.

A relaxation of the Covid-19 testing threshold in order to get more people tested is being actively considered, the chief medical officer Tony Holohan said, adding the problem of idle test centres is “one of the big issues” they are dealing with.

A total of 1,068 new confirmed cases were announced bringing the overall total in Ireland to 12,547.

Some 290 people in either nursing homes or residential care settings, more than 50% of the overall toll, have died thus far from the illness.

It was reported last night that nine residents at the Maryborough Centre, a HSE-run psychiatric unit in Portlaoise, died over the weekend after testing positive for Covid-19.

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