Just under half of those who accessed the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) have now brought their claim to a close according to the Government, as it moved to dampen controversy over the benefit.
At its peak, some 598,000 people accessed the PUP during the lockdown. Of those, more than 272,000 of them have now moved off payment as the restrictions on business have eased.
Speaking at the latest Government briefing on the coronavirus situation in Dublin, assistant secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach Elizabeth Canavan said that, while holidays are generally permitted for those seeking regular jobseekers’ benefits, the decision was made from early March to remove this option by the Government due to the “strong” public health advice against all foreign travel.
She said that there had been “a lot of commentary and confusion” surrounding PUP this week.
"It was agreed that in the event of an emergency, such as the requirement to travel abroad because of a family issue such as a bereavement, the payment of the PUP would continue," Ms Canavan said
The PUP has been the source of much controversy over the past number of days after it emerged that officials of the Department of Social Protection had been questioning travellers at their port of exit as to whether or not they were in receipt of the PUP, with some 2,500 people being stripped of the benefit to date as a result.
Yesterday, the Dáil voted to put the PUP requirement that anyone in receipt of it should be “genuinely seeking work” on a statutory funding, having previously existed as a non-legal regulation signed by Minister Heather Humphreys.
The PUP is set to continue until next April, albeit in an increasingly scaled-down fashion beginning from September 17.
Regarding the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, which is also set to expire in September, Ms Canvan said that roughly 400,000 employees are currently being supported by the scheme, with more than 68,700 businesses registered for it. Some €2.2bn has been paid to employers under the scheme to date.
Separately, Ms Canavan reiterated the need for respiratory etiquette and social distancing going forward, and urged those members of the public who have not yet downloaded the Covid Tracker app to do so.
She said that 105 people have thus far been notified of close contacts with confirmed cases of the coronavirus via their use of the app.
“The virus hasn’t gone away,” she said.
“We have to keep up with all of the habits we've learned since March, if we want to keep the disease at bay.”