A one-off reward bonus to acknowledge the efforts of frontline Covid-19 workers is being finalised and could be announced alongside next month’s Budget, senior Government sources have said.
The so-called recognition payment looks set to be announced on Budget day on Tuesday, October 12th, with Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath looking to secure approval from the leaders of the three Government parties in the coming days.
The measure, which will take the form of annual leave and in some cases a monetary payment, is set to cost the exchequer “many tens of millions of euro”.
The Irish Examiner reports that Mr McGrath will tap the EU Brexit adjustment fund of €1.1 billion to boost his Budget day coffers, on top of the €4.7 billion he is set to spend, meaning an overall spending package of €5.8 billion.
Outstanding concerns about the recognition payment include just who would qualify the once-off ex gratia payment and whether the Government can get private sector buy-in for retail staff and other low-paid workers who bore the brunt of the pandemic.
“The costs are chunky and the question is where do you draw the line. Is it gardaí, is it prison officers? It is tricky,” a source told The Irish Examiner.
Government sources have made clear that the recognition payment will not impact on the Budget number for 2022, as Mr McGrath is looking to cover the cost of it out of this year’s revenues.
Buoyant tax receipts and a lower-than-expected budget deficit allow significant wiggle room.
Speaking to The Examiner, Mr McGrath said the priorities in Budget 2022 include building on the economic recovery that is already well underway, making sure that our public services are working well after a turbulent 18 months, and making progress in repairing the public finances to ensure we are on a sustainable path.
“Covid isn't over, but I think we can face the future with a renewed sense of confidence. The budget is a great opportunity for us to reset our key priorities as a society and an economy after all that we have been through,” he said.