Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Questions (1262, 1276)

Michael McGrath

Question:

1262. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the pandemic unemployment payment can be extended indefinitely under section 202 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005; if there are limits placed on the powers granted under this section; if she can spend as much money as deemed appropriate under this section; if primary legislation will be needed for the pandemic unemployment payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6490/20]

View answer

Michael McGrath

Question:

1276. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if section 202 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 has been used previously for a payment such as the pandemic unemployment payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6669/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1262 and 1276 together.

Given the need to pay the Covid Pandemic Unemployment Payment as expeditiously as possible, Section 202 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 was used.  This section allows for the provision of payments in urgent cases by way of Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

The Covid-19 pandemic and resultant immediate economic impact is unprecedented and created an urgent requirement for the provision of income supports to over 600,000 people in a period of a little over a month.  Therefore, it was appropriate to use section 202 as the basis for the payment.  As there has never been a situation comparable to the Covid-19 'lock-down' of businesses, an urgent need to provide payments of this type to so many people in such a short period of time has never arisen before.  This is the first time that the section has been used for this purpose.

There are a number of matters that may require placing the payment on a separate legislative footing including, for example, granting social insurance contributions to people who were temporarily laid off and are either in receipt of PUP or are being paid via the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.  These matters are currently being considered and legislative proposals will be brought to Government for approval.

Pandemic Unemployment Payments are funded through the Department's vote.  As the Revised Estimates Volume for 2020 has not yet been voted upon, spending thus far in 2020 is operating under the ‘four-fifths’ rule which applies to voted expenditure under the Central Fund (Permanent Provisions) Act, 1965. 

I understand my colleague, the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, will bring proposals to Government in the near future with regard to the Department's estimate and requirement for a Dáil vote.