Last week, my Department issued payments valued at €61.3 million to over 206,341 people on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). Of these, some 5,822 (or 2.8%) are members of the arts, entertainment and recreation sector. This represents a 59% reduction from 14,200 claimants in that sector at the peak in May. In total Government has spent over €3.5 bn on PUP payments.
From 17 September the PUP is being paid at three rates linked to a person's pre-covid employment earnings. Individuals whose prior earnings were €300 or over per week will receive a payment of €300 per week. A rate of €250 will apply to those who previously earned between €200 and €300 per week; and the rate of €203 remains unchanged for those who had prior earnings of less than €200 per week.
The changes to the payment rate means that Government is in a position to extend the scheme until April next and make it more sustainable by linking it to previous earnings. The new rates remain higher than the general weekly personal social welfare payments for people of working age, payable at €203.
In the interest of equality and fairness it is important that the pandemic unemployment payment rate changes apply to all scheme recipients as it would not be appropriate to make exceptions for those who had previously worked in the arts and entertainment sector, while applying the changes to over 97% of recipients who have worked in other sectors.
I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputy.