Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Questions (616)

Carol Nolan


616. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will address concerns (details supplied) and consider extending the pandemic unemployment payment for self-employed persons in severely impacted cottage industries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50653/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) was introduced as an emergency measure in the exceptional circumstances of Covid-19 to support employees and the self -employed who were impacted as a direct result of public health measures mandated by the Government. To date expenditure on the scheme is over €8.8 billion.

Last week the number of PUP payments fell below 100,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, to just over 97,100.  This milestone reached represents a drop of almost 85% in the number of customers who are currently receiving the payment compared to over 602,000 in May 2020, during the height of the pandemic. It is therefore important that standard social welfare terms are re-introduced in a controlled and considered manner.

In line with the Government’s Economic Recovery Plan, the PUP is changing using a tapered approach from September 2021 until February 2022 to align it with standard jobseeker’s payments.  Further rate changes will take place from 16th November 2021 and 8th February 2022. As PUP customers move on to the €203 rate, they will be transitioned to standard jobseeker terms.

I have deferred the commencement of this transition process in line with the publication of the Government's Roadmap "Reframing the Challenge, Continuing Our Recovery and Reconnecting". All affected customers, including those self- employed, will continue to receive their PUP payment until 26th October after which the process of their transition to a jobseeker’s payment will begin.

There are a range of supports available to the self-employed who are working in a reduced or limited capacity. A self-employed person exiting the PUP scheme and who is working in their business for up to 24 hours per week may apply for the Part Time Job Incentive for Self -employed. Recipients receive a payment of €128.60 per week and there is no income limit applied. The extension of the Part Time Job Incentive to self-employed people will continue to be available until the end of the year.

Alternatively, a self- employed person who is trading at a reduced level may be eligible for support under the means tested Jobseekers Allowance Scheme subject to satisfying the statutory scheme conditions.

I should also advise the Deputy that the €1,000 Covid-19 Enterprise Support Grant to assist self -employed people to restart their business will continue to be available to self-employed people closing their PUP claims until the end of 2021. A self-employed person closing their PUP claim to reopen their business will be able to avail of this grant even if they have previously claimed it as part of an earlier reopening of their business in 2020. To date almost 10,000 applications have been awarded since the scheme was launched last year with a total of over €9 million paid to grant recipients towards the costs of reopening their businesses.

My colleague, the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment has primary responsibility for policy relating to supports for businesses.

I trust that this clarifies the position at this time.