Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed plans to phase out the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) beginning in September, but insisted it does not signal a return to austerity.
At a press conference announcing the Government National Economic Recovery Plan, Mr Martin said the pandemic had a "swift and unprecedented" impact, the largest outside the world wars.
"There is enormous damage to be undone," he said at Dublin Castle while Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the economy will “take off like a rocket” in the coming months as restrictions are eased under the plan.
Mr Martin said: “This is the opposite of austerity. This is expansionary.”
Mr Martin said the plan includes more €3.5bn in spending supports and just under €1bn from the EU's recovery fund which will help kick start a jobs-led economy.
The Government has confirmed that the PUP will be extended in full for existing claimants beyond 30 June to 7 September, at which stage the rate will be reduced by €50 a week over three phases.
The current weekly rates of support will be gradually reduced over three phases by €50 increments. The first phase of rate changes will apply from 7 September provided progress on re-opening continues. Two further phases of changes will take place over the following months, on 16 November and 8 February, if progress continues as expected.
The three Government party leaders – Mr Martin, Mr Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan — said business supports will be extended until the end of the year and businesses may apply for enhanced reopening payments, Mr Martin said.
Mr Varadkar said the commercial rates waiver is being extended for three months until the end of quarter three of this year, with a further decision expected in October’s budget.
The Covid Restrictions Support Scheme is being extended until the end of 2021 with an enhanced restart payment of three weeks at a double rate.
From September, a new business resumption support scheme is being introduced.
Mr Varadkar also confirmed that the 9% Vat rate for the tourism sector will continue until September 2022.
The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) will be extended until the end of the year and businesses may apply for enhanced reopening payments.
Mr Martin defended the point that Ireland has received only €950m in the first round of EU recovery funding when a country such as Poland has received more than 50 times that amount.
He said we cannot take a “narrow” nationalistic view of things and that Ireland is now a net contributor and will pay “considerable” amounts of money to the EU in the coming years.
On the creation of jobs, Mr Martin said the Government hopes to see 2.5 million people in work by 2024, many in jobs in new areas of opportunity.
He said there will be a focus on "young people at greater risk of long term unemployment".
Mr Varadkar said that summer 2021 is one that we can look forward to.
In a message to the business community, the Tánaiste said: "We have your back for the period ahead".
More businesses will qualify, as it will now be based on your turnover this year relative to 2019, he added.
For businesses reopening in June and coming off the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), there will be a bullet payment on reopening, as a double payment for three weeks up to a maximum of €30,000, he said.
A special scheme for the events sector, worth up to €50,000 per company, was also announced.