How can the State support me now I’ve lost my job?

Those who have been made redundant can avail of the Government’s Covid-19 Pandemic unemployment payment. Photograph: iStock

Those who have been made redundant can avail of the Government’s Covid-19 Pandemic unemployment payment. Photograph: iStock

 

You’ve lost your job. What Government supports are available?

Employees laid off temporarily, without pay, due to a reduction in business activity can apply to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment.

This payment is available to all employees and self-employed people who have lost their jobs as a result of the work stoppages associated with the spread of the virus. After filling out a simple one-page application form, workers can get a flat rate payment of €350 per week for the duration of the crisis. This money may be subject to income tax, USC and PRSI.

You don’t need a public services card to receive the payment but if you have one, you can apply online: otherwise you have to post in the application form.

Employees who are put on to a shorter working week due to a reduction in business related to Covid-19 can apply for a short time work support payment. If, for example, your working week has been reduced from a five-day week to a three day week, you can get support for the other two days.

If you have lost out two days of work, you may be entitled to up to €81.20 (two fifths of the maximum weekly rate of jobseekers benefit of €203) for the two days you’re no longer working.

Perhaps I should take this opportunity to retrain?

“My view on this is that people do need to retrain constantly anyway,” future of work expert and author Peter Cosgrove told The Irish Times.

“In the next five to 10 years many jobs could be taken over or completely transformed by technology. A lot of jobs in accountancy, law and medicine could be gone. On top of that, people need to be aware, if you look at remote working at the moment, the moment you realise your job could be done remotely then it could be done far more remotely, like 6,000 miles away, for a lot less pay,” he said.

His central point is that going to university and then coming out with a college degree and working for the rest of your days is no longer good enough. Employees, he says, needs to be creating value all the time.

Of course, for some, retraining now will be a necessity rather than a luxury and Mr Cosgrove says they should look at careers in areas there’ll always be employment like in pharmaceuticals, for example.

He advises people to ensure they’re improving the skills us humans do much better than technology.

“If you’re going to retrain the starting point is understanding what you do better than other people because then you’ll realise what you like to do,” he added.

Can the Government help with upskilling?

To a certain degree, yes. While several retraining options existed prior to the coronavirus outbreak, and continue to exist, access to some of the available opportunities is complicated by the fact that schools and colleges remain closed.

One scheme offered by the State is the back-to-education allowance, which can support people receiving a social welfare payment to access second and third level education and limited post-graduate courses. The allowance is paid for the duration of the course.

A part-time education option also exists whereby, if you’re unemployed, you can retain the jobseeker’s allowance or jobseeker’s benefit and attend a part-time day or evening course while still getting the jobseeker’s payment. Individual’s must continue to be available for and actively seeking work to avail of this option.

What if I want to retrain while still in my job?

If you’re in a position to balance work and further education the State will allow you claim tax relief on fees, including the student contribution, that you paid for the course in question. The relief is available for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses being carried out in approved institutions. The maximum amount you can claim is €7,000 per person per course.

My finances have taken a hit during the pandemic and I can’t make my upcoming rent payment, what should I do?

In the first instance, the prevailing advice is to contact your landlord to establish whether you can defer payment. For many, however, that is unlikely to be a viable option.

Writing for The Irish Times last week, chartered planning and development surveyor Enda McGuane noted that the Minister for Housing indicated the the Government is looking at additional supports for tenants, which may see changes to the housing assistance payment (HAP) and other supports in the short term.

The housing charity Threshold recommends that if you have lost your job or had your working hours reduced that you should apply for rent supplement, a means-tested payment.

The amount of rent supplement is determined by the amount payable on a tenancy and how much income a person is receiving. Even with the supplement, individuals are expected to contribute towards their rental costs. And the maximum rents payable under the scheme vary wildly, from €180 for a single, shared unit in Longford to €1,300 for a couple or one parent family with three children in Dublin, not including Fingal.

While the Government has brought in emergency legislation to prevent evictions and stop rent increases during the crisis, there is nothing to suspend rental contracts or to allow tenants stop paying rent.

What if I’m self-employed, have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and can’t work?

The State has introduced an enhanced illness benefit worth €350 per week. This welfare allowance will be paid for a maximum of two weeks where a person is self-isolating and for a maximum of 10 weeks if a person has been diagnosed with Covid-19.

I’m an immigrant in the Republic. Should I be concerned that if I receive the Covid-19 support payment my details might be shared with the Department of Justice?

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection confirmed that it has no plans in place to share any data it receives as part of an immigrant’s application for a Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment with the Department of Justice and Equality.

https://www.irishtimes.com/business/work

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