I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. Almost €9 billion has been spent on the PUP since its introduction, demonstrating the Government's commitment to workers. The number of PUP recipients has fallen dramatically from a peak of more than 605,000 last year to approximately 57,000 this week. This represents a drop of over 90%, highlighting that the majority of people have returned to work.
The introduction of an earlier closing time in the night-time industry and the other measures announced by the Government last week do not represent an economic shutdown to the same extent as those measures previously introduced. The Department has not seen an increase in applications for jobseeker's payments over the past week. In fact, the opposite has happened, with numbers on the live register falling to approximately 165,000 this week. This does not point to significant lay-offs as a result of the midnight closing time.
As the Deputy will be aware, many employers in the sector have adapted their trading hours to meet the new closing time requirement and can avail of the employment wage subsidy scheme to retain workers on their payrolls. It is also the case that, while employment opportunities were limited under the wider restrictions of previous lockdowns, many businesses are actively trying to recruit staff now. The Deputy will be aware of reports of some businesses having to limit their opening hours due to non-availability of staff.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, the Government does not propose to reopen the PUP as a consequence of the measures announced last week. The normal range of income supports available from my Department for people who lose their employment continues to be available and claims can be processed quickly. Support is available under the jobseeker's benefit scheme or the jobseeker's allowance scheme. Payments under these schemes, which range from €203 for a single person to €420.70 for a couple with two children, may be much more beneficial to some households than the PUP.
I assure the Deputy that the situation remains under close review by the Government as we continue to monitor the impacts of the Covid-19 virus.