Government believes Covid-19 unemployment payments have now peaked

The first drop in the numbers claiming Covid-19 welfare payments has been attributed to people returning to work and instead availing of the wage subsidy scheme.
Government believes Covid-19 unemployment payments have now peaked

There has been a fall-off in Covid-19 unemployment welfare payment claims for the first time since the pandemic forced businesses to close their doors.

New figures show that 589,000 people today received their Covid-19 weekly welfare payment of €350, at a cost of €206m. But this was a fall of 9,000 on payments issued last week - the first decrease in numbers seeking the emergency welfare since the scheme began in March. Of the overall numbers claiming, around 8,700 are receiving a payment for the first time.

The first drop in the numbers claiming the virus welfare payments has been attributed to people returning to work and instead availing of the wage subsidy scheme. Others have switched to different welfare claim types.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said, as the country moves through the roadmap to exit lockdown, certain sectors will hopefully begin to reopen shortly.

“Today we see a slight drop in the amount of people receiving pandemic unemployment payments as the number leaving the scheme – primarily to go on the temporary Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme – is now greater than the number of new entrants. We now have a very clear view of the peak of the challenge we currently face.

“Hopefully the direction of travel from here on will continue to be positive. As we move through the government’s phased re-opening of society - while observing the recently published guidance for returning to work – we can expect certain sectors of the labour market to gradually re-open and for more people to close their applications for assistance."

Ms Doherty's department also gave out the latest figures on the wage subsidy scheme, which is being accessed by some 53,000 employers across the country. It covers 456,200 people so far. This is an increase on 427,400 availing of it since April 30. In total, some €878m has now been paid out to employers under the scheme to date.

Ms O'Doherty added: “However, there won’t be a quick return to work for everybody and the nature of the virus is such that we won’t be able to switch the economy instantly back on in the same manner as we put it into sleep mode.

"My department will continue to support those who can’t go back to work while simultaneously working on effective plans for the post-pandemic environment to retrain, re-energise and re-employ all those who have been disrupted by this unprecedented health emergency.”

Department of Social Protection officials said they believe the falling claims signal that virus welfare payments have “peaked”. While they will stay significantly high for some time to come, it is believed that the fall-off should continue, department sources said.

Earlier, Department of Taoiseach official Liz Canavan revealed that up 98,000 people have sought to discontinue their claims since the scheme began. This is expected to rise further, as others return to work and instead seek support under the wage subsidy scheme.

She also warned about scams taking place. A number of claimants have been contacted with fraud tests, not issued by government, Ms Canavan said, She cautioned those on schemes to be careful about giving out personal details.

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