A CORK TD is seeking clarification from the Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys over an “anomaly” which has arisen as self-employed people try to confirm whether they continue to be eligible for the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP).
The payment, which was introduced in response to Covid-19, is available to people who are fully unemployed either permanently or temporarily, as a result of Covid-19, and for those who are self-employed and whose trading income has been significantly reduced.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has asked individuals who are in receipt of the payment to confirm their continued eligibility online before July 13.
However, The Echo was contacted by one individual who fell into the self-employed category, who said this process had presented some difficulties. This individual, who wished to remain anonymous, said they are in receipt of a small income. When they went to fill in the online form to confirm they were still eligible to receive the payment, the individual said they were asked to declare that they were receiving “no income”, however, could not do so because they had “some” income. When asked if self-employed people who had some income were still entitled to the payment, a spokesperson for the department said that this was the case.
“There has been no change in the eligibility criteria. Self-employed people who have suffered a significant reduction in their trading income to the extent that they are available for full-time employment if it is offered to them are eligible for the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment. The declaration refers to the personal income which the individual derives from that trade or business,” a statement from the department said.
“In practice, a self-employed person can engage in once-off or sporadic emergency work and still retain eligibility for the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment,” it added.
When asked how a self-employed person who had some income could complete the form to confirm they were still entitled to the payment a spokesperson said: “The department cannot comment on individual cases. We would advise the individuals concerned to contact our Income Support Helpline on 1890 800 024 and an official will discuss their particular situation directly with them.”
A spokesperson subsequently clarified if a person had no income they should fill in the form and if they had some income they should contact the helpline for assistance.
The self-employed worker in Cork who contacted The Echo said they contacted the helpline on Wednesday and were advised that they should instead apply for job seekers’ benefit.
The individual said they were concerned about the “anomaly”. Cork North West Fianna Fáil TD Aindrias Moynihan has also been contacted about this and has contacted the minister for clarification on the issue, which he said could affect self-employed people across a wide variety of sectors.
“We’re trying to establish what is the situation because there are definitely mixed messages and this seems to be putting self-employed people in a difficult position,” he said.
He said the situation didn’t make sense and he will be looking to see how it can be resolved.
A new two-tiered payment structure for people receiving the PUP took effect this week.
Employees whose average weekly earnings in 2019 or January and February 2020 were less than €200 gross will receive a weekly PUP of €203 a week. Employees with average earnings of €200 or more a week will continue to receive €350 pandemic unemployment payment.