The Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment was put on a statutory footing with effect from 5 August 2020 as a social welfare benefit to help mitigate the adverse economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is available to employees who lost their employment on or after 13 March 2020 as a direct consequence of Covid-19. It is also available to self-employed people whose income from self-employment ceased or reduced as a direct consequence of the pandemic to the extent that they would be available to take up full-time employment.
The Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is payable where a person was an employed contributor in the week immediately before he or she ceased to earn an income from the employment concerned. Similarly, a self-employed person must have been in insurable self-employment in the week immediately before the date on which their self-employment income ceased or reduced. It is a long-standing feature of social welfare legislation that individuals who are engaged in employment or self-employment are liable to pay PRSI on those activities. In those circumstances, persons claiming the Pandemic Unemployment Payment should have no difficulty satisfying these conditions.
In the case of employees, the Department uses earnings data supplied by the Revenue Commissioners for 2019 and 2020 in the case of employees, and 2018 and 2019 in the case of self-employed people. Data is updated as often as practicable, and in the case of employees on a daily basis.
Where the Department cannot find any record of contributions or earnings in the reference period (for example because returns have not been filed with Revenue or are filed late) it contacts the people concerned and asks them to submit evidence of employment in the form of recent payslips etc. When this is received and verified, claims are put into payment as soon as possible. Dedicated teams are in place to follow up on replies as quickly as possible.
I can assure the Deputy that my Department is doing everything in its power to process payments efficiently and quickly and, since Level 5 restrictions were introduced, has processed and paid over 100,000 new claimants.
It is always the case when processing such a large volume of claims in such a short period that there will be some cases where claims are not paid due to incomplete or missing information or because a person does not satisfy the eligibility criteria.
In general, the numbers concerned are relatively low. This week, for example, 330,000 claims were paid while just 8,600 (just under 3%) were held where the Department could not validate entitlement using Revenue records or where the information provided by the applicant was incomplete or where it is clear that the applicant does not meet the eligibility criteria. As I have outlined, the Department has contacted the people concerned and asked them to submit evidence of employment or other information required.
I hope that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.