Postmasters are warning that coronavirus is continuing to have a very serious negative impact on transactions in post offices, and by extension cash spending in local economies.
The Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) is calling on people to be offered the choice to collect social welfare payments either weekly or once every two weeks.
A comparison of transactions for the month of August 2020 with the same period in 2019 estimated that transactions decreased by a quarter.
As a public safety measure, social welfare payment collections were previously reduced to every two weeks during Covid-19 lockdown. Some payments were re-instated to weekly collections last month.
IPU General Secretary Ned O’Hara said the challenges facing Irish villages, and towns, and their post offices, needed a new response from Government.
In a statement issued this morning, he said: “There are two connected happenings that postmasters are reporting. Firstly, post offices are much quieter due to coronavirus.
"Second is the effect this has on other businesses. On weeks where little welfare is paid out, activity in the surrounding businesses can be ghostly.
Mr O'Hara said that the Government needs to "recognise and connect these two factors."
He said that the local post office in a community represents "much more than the post office itself."
The IPU’s concern was echoed by Chambers Ireland, a group which represents local businesses across the country.
Chief Executive of Chambers Ireland, Ian Talbot said: “Small and medium enterprises, which support 63% of jobs, are the businesses most affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
“A recent survey found that SMEs saw their revenue collapse by 53% during the initial pandemic period.
The IPU says that people should be offered the choice of weekly or bi-weekly for all payments, as this would support local economies and help some people to better manage their personal finances.
Mr O'Hara said: “Local businesses need more than ever the stimulus which collection of welfare and local spending provide, And Postmasters need it too."
Chambers Ireland said it would also support a move to weekly or bi-weekly payments.
IPU President and Tramore Postmaster Seán Martin added that more stark findings will be published in an independent report on the Post Office Network, commissioned from Grant Thornton, which is due to be published next Wednesday.
“It will be decision time for Government," Mr Martin said.
In February of this year, a report carried out by research and marketing firm Red C found that 91% of people said their post office provided a valuable service to the local community.
86% of respondents said they would support the Government providing extra financial support to keep them open, and a further 86% said they wanted more State services made available at their post office.