By Cate McCurry, PA
There will be no “cliff-edge” in the withdrawal of Covid-19 financial supports to businesses and people, the Taoiseach has said.
Micheál Martin said that as society and non-essential businesses reopen, pandemic supports will begin to be phased out.
He told the Dáil during leaders’ questions that the Government would retain all supports to the end of June.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald urged the Taoiseach to give assurances to people left unemployed because of the pandemic that their income support would not be cut.
More than 400,000 people are claiming the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), while a further 310,000 people are claiming on the Wage Subsidy Scheme.
The Government has spent some €28 billion on the various Covid-related supports.
There are fears that as the economy reopens, the Government will move to cut back on its public spending on business supports.
Taoiseach fails to give a clear answer on continuation of full income supports for workers and businesses beyond the end of June. #COVID19
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) April 28, 2021
Ms McDonald called for the Government to confirm that income supports will continue beyond June.
“I know for all of us, and particularly for those who haven’t seen a day’s work in over a year, a return to working life cannot come quickly enough,” she added.
“There are tens of thousands of workers who haven’t seen a day’s work in over a year and many of whom wonder whether or not they will ever really return back to work at all.
“So there’s still great uncertainty for workers and particularly in the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.
“Those people who are prevented from going to work due to public health restrictions, for them income supports have been vital in keeping their heads above water and just making it to the end of each week.
“Taoiseach, yesterday at committee you failed to give a concrete assurance that income support won’t be cut during this emergency.
“I put it to you that your lack of clarity is causing great anxiety for people who have seen their incomes collapse through no fault of their own.
“Your plan to reopen the economy which you will announce tomorrow must include an absolute assurance that while public health advice prevents workers from going to work, and prevents businesses from operating, that income supports will continue.
“I very much hope that this will be for the short term, none of us want this to go on forever, it cannot go on forever because people need to get back to work.”
Mr Martin said the virus has “wreaked” a lot of damage and created a lot of havoc with many sectors of the economy, and has created a lot of unemployment.
He said the public health restrictions are there to protect people and society from the virus.
“As a result of the virus, the Government has introduced unprecedented interventions to support incomes and to support jobs, and to keep as many businesses as viable as we possibly can,” Mr Martin added.
“To date, 28 billion has been provided for various Covid-related spending funds, nearly half of which was on the pandemic unemployment payments and wage subsidy schemes.
“Government has been very clear, and was proactive and ahead of the situation while saying sometime back that we would retain all supports to the end of June.
“There would be no cliff-edge in terms of the withdrawal of supports. I am very, very clear about that.
“The Covid strategy, in terms of getting the virus numbers down, getting hospitalisations down, intensive care numbers down, has worked.
“The people of Ireland have adhered to the guidelines and regulations, the vast, vast majority have, and as a result, we’re in a much better position now than anticipated.”