Humphreys denies that she said artists would have to retrain due to pandemic

Ms Humphreys told RTÉ radio’s News at One that anyone could check the Dáil record and see that she had not made such comments
Humphreys denies that she said artists would have to retrain due to pandemic
Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Heather Humphreys. Picture: James Connolly

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys has denied that she ever said that artists and musicians would have to retrain for alternative careers because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Humphreys told RTÉ radio’s News at One that anyone could check the Dáil record and see that she had not made such comments. 

As a former Minister for the Arts she said she valued “hugely” the contribution of artists and musicians to the arts.

It had been “disquieting” to see misinformation on social media for comments she did not make, she said.

“At no point did I say they should look for work in other sectors.” 

The Minister said she had a very constructive meeting with artists earlier this week. A dedicated email address (artistspup@welfare.ie) was available for artists to contact her department with any queries about pandemic payments.

“I want to support them.” 

Ms Humphreys also defended the Back To School allowance which she said was being provided this year to many families for the first time as previously they would not have qualified for the once-off payment.

The Back To School allowance will be extended to include all families on Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), she said.

Her colleagues the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and the Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath were looking at a package for part time workers in the hospitality sector who were concerned that they could not return to work, she added.

Meanwhile it was announced today that the government has paid out over €3bn in the PUP.

Some 274,600 people received the payment last week, with an overall weekly payment of €85m, with over €3bn has been paid out overall since the payment began in March.

In the last week, 8,300 people who were in receipt of the payment have closed their claim because they have returned to work as Ireland moves through their reopening roadmap.

In total, 280,600 previous recipients have returned to work and closed their claim.

Earlier today, the government warned that the country has shifted away from its trajectory in battling Covid-19 in the past week.

362 new confirmed cases have been reported over the past seven days.

Five people are now receiving treatment in intensive care units, while 10 people who contracted the virus are in hospital.

Government official Elizabeth Canavan says the decision not to progress to phase four of easing restrictions was justified.

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