Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys is expected to ask the Cabinet to approve the retention of the current Pandemic Unemployment Payment rates until the end of March, rather than reducing them on 1 February as was originally planned.
The PUP scheme launched last March has so far cost the exchequer in excess of €5bn and is due to be terminated on 31 March 2021.
There are currently four rates of PUP ranging from €203 to €350 – depending on the claimant’s pre-pandemic earnings.
On 1 February, those four rates are due to merge into two: €203 for those who earned less than €300 before the pandemic, and €250 whose pre-Covid earnings exceeded €300.
But that reduction was planned when it was thought the virus was under control – and the economy would reopen on a sustained basis.
The latest infection rates show tough restrictions and economic pain are set to last longer than anticipated for many people.
In light of that, it is understood Minister Humphreys will ask the Cabinet to sanction retention of the current PUP rates until the end of March, and shelve the planned cuts.
That move would be welcomed not just by the 336,000 people already receiving the payment, but by new claimants from sectors such as construction which face further closures.