As government leaders decide on regulations for Ireland's exit from Level 5 next week, 352,078 people are in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) ahead of Christmas.
The latest figures released from the Department of Social Protection show just over 2,000 more people received the payment compared to 350,072 last week.
In its report, the Department highlighted the hospitality industry with the most workers on the PUP payment at 102,777 while the retail sector followed with 57,292 recipients. The costmetics, beauty care and hairdressing sector had a significant number of recipients as well at 31,273.
This week's payments were valued at €104m and represent an increase from €103.8m last week. The Department has paid out over €4.3bn on the PUP payment to date. A tiered rate of payments was replaced by the original €350 amount when the move to a Level 5 lockdown was announced.
Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys said the last few weeks have been difficult for many and recognised the drastic increase of people in receipt of the payment as a result of the Level 5 restrictions introduced by the government.
“There are now over 352,000 people in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, representing an increase of over 145,000 since the start of October. These past few weeks have not been easy. I know people are tired and just want life to get back to some normality," said Minister Humphreys.
The Social Protection Minister said the return to work for some people may be possible as restrictions are due to be lifted next week.
“Later this week Government hopes to be in a position to consider easing restrictions from early December which will hopefully allow some people to return to work.
“In the meantime as a society, we must do everything within our power to continue to suppress this virus and to significantly reduce the rate of transmission.
"By working together now and in the weeks ahead, we can all play our part in ensuring that families across the country will be able to come together and celebrate this Christmas in a meaningful way,” she said.
This week’s figures are in addition to the 203,172 people who were reported on the Live Register as of the end of October.
The Department also said that last week, 4,912 people closed their PUP claim, with 3,251 people stating that they were doing so because they are returning to work.
People can apply to receive the PUP payment online at mywelfare.ie