Covid-19 payment could be given to seasonal workers

The government is examining if thousands of seasonal workers in the tourist sector can avail of the Covid-19 unemployment payment and also whether the restarting of some sports can be "accelerated".
Covid-19 payment could be given to seasonal workers
Brendan Griffin: He told FG TDs that restarting some sports ‘may be accelerated’.

The government is examining if thousands of seasonal workers in the tourist sector can avail of the Covid-19 unemployment payment and also whether the restarting of some sports can be "accelerated".

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin, confirmed the two moves to Fine Gael colleagues during a private teleconference meeting over supports and options for the two sectors.

Mr Griffin warned that some 200,000 out of 260,000 in the tourism sector were out of work because of the pandemic. He also warned only “a fraction” of the 11 million overseas visitors to Ireland, recorded last year, would come here this year.

TDs during the meeting were told that Mr Griffin is pushing for Ireland's seasonal tourism workers to be able to claim the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) of €350. They cannot as they were not working in February, prior to when the pandemic took hold - a requirement under the rules for claiming the emergency payment.

However, officials in the Department of Tourism say there are records from previous years which could prove seasonal workers had employment and this could be used to justify letting them claim the payment. Department of Social Protection officials, though, are less enthusiastic about the option.

"It's impossible to try and prove someone might be potentially employed somewhere," said a department source.

According to party sources, Mr Griffin said those workers, who number in the thousands, usually were in employment between May and September. He told colleagues he is currently in talks with the Department of Finance about trying to find a way to support those workers.

Mr Griffin said the tourism sector in general was “devastated”, that Failte Ireland has scrapped some of its advertising campaign in the United States and that he hopes a new tourism taskforce, just set up, will recommend ways to help support the sector.

He also told colleagues he has set up an expert group on sports. Its job will include any recommendations on "accelerating" the return of some sports, with the blessing of health chiefs. Mr Griffin highlighted how, during the foot and mouth crisis, a quarter of rugby clubs closed and he was keen not to see that happen again.

Sports Ireland is also finalising a report for government on what the cost of the pandemic will be for the sector.

Mr Griffin told colleagues he had also held discussions with banks and the insurance sector to try and ensure sports clubs are treated fairly during the pandemic.

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