Payment of the pandemic unemployment payment, or PUP, as it is known, has proved to be an extremely effective tool in responding to the economic impact of Covid-19 and in cushioning hundreds of thousands of individuals and families from sudden income shocks. Expenditure on the scheme has amounted to over €4.3 billion since its introduction in March. The scheme will remain in place until the end of March 2021 and, just last week, I announced that I had secured Government approval to keep the scheme open for new applicants until this date, rather than it closing at the end of the year. This extension provides certainty to people, including those in the retail and hospitality sectors, that they will be able to re-apply for PUP early in the new year if that is required.
I take this opportunity to highlight two other recent positive changes to the payment. First, since the move to level 5 restrictions, the €350 rate of PUP has been reintroduced for individuals who had prior average weekly earnings of €400 or more. Approximately 158,150, or 45% of the total in receipt of the support, are now receiving this rate of payment. Second, in budget 2021, we provided with immediate effect that self-employed PUP recipients can earn up to €480 over a rolling four-week period and retain entitlement to PUP. The €480 limit is based on gross income, before tax and PRSI, minus expenses.
The Government will keep the position regarding PUP under review and any future decisions will be informed by the trajectory of the pandemic and the evolving public health situation.