Social welfare payments and COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Introduction

Many business were forced to shut down while strict public health measures were in place as a result of COVID-19. Most of these restrictions have now been lifted, but some businesses are still unable to reopen, or have closed down completely.

In response to the pandemic, there are new social welfare schemes and changes to some social welfare rules.

This document describes the main payments for people affected by COVID-19. The payments covered are for people of working age only (between the ages of 18 and 66)

If you have no work, or less work than before

Your employer may have closed their business and sent you home. Where this is temporary, this is called a temporary lay-off. If it is permanent, you may be made redundant.

Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme

Your employer may be able to continue to pay you under the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and if so, you do not need to apply for a social welfare payment. You cannot apply for EWSS yourself, it is administered by Revenue through your employer’s payroll.

The EWSS replaced the COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme on 1 September 2020.

If you were getting a Working Family Payment, this will continue while you are being paid under the EWSS.

COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is for employees and self-employed people living in Ireland who have lost their employment due to COVID-19. If you lost your job for another reason, you can apply for a jobseeker’s payment. You can get PUP if you are on a temporary lay-off from employment, or if you have been made redundant.

PUP is available to any registered employee or self-employed worker who has lost all of their work because of COVID-19 and is resident in Ireland. This includes people on student visas and asylum seekers.

PUP rates from 17 September 2020:

  • €203 per week if you were earning less than €200 per week
  • €250 per week if you were earning between €200 and €300 per week
  • €300 per week if you were earning more than €300 per week

If you have dependents, you may get a higher payment by applying for a jobseeker’s payment.

You must be genuinely seeking work to qualify for PUP.

Jobseeker’s Allowance and Jobseeker’s Benefit

If you have lost your job and have dependents, you may get a higher payment if you apply for Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) or Jobseeker's Allowance (JA) instead of PUP. This is because PUP does not pay anything extra for dependents.

A dependent can be your spouse or partner if they are earning less than €350 per week, or children under 18, or under 22 and in full time education. If you were self-employed, you can claim Jobseeker’s Benefit (Self-Employed) instead of JB. Rates for adult dependents have increased temporarily. See 'adult dependent increases' below for more details.

JB is based on your PRSI contributions. JA is means tested. You apply for both payments at the same time and the Department decides which one you qualify for.

If the number of days you work have decreased, you may be entitled to Short Time Work Support. You must be unemployed for 3 days per week (excluding Sunday) to qualify for this. You can get this even if your employer is paying you through the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

If your hours have been reduced but you continue to work for more than 3 days per week (for example, you have been asked to work 5 mornings per week), you may qualify for Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

Family payments

If you are parenting alone you may be entitled to One-Parent Family Payment. The other parent of your child may have reduced the maintenance they pay to support your child. You should notify your local Intreo centre in this case. You can get an increase to your payment for up to 12 weeks. After this, you payment will be reassessed.

You should also check if you qualify for Working Family Payment if you have dependent children and your hours or pay have been reduced.

If you are receiving COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, you may be eligible for Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.

If you are pregnant and getting PUP or being paid through the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), you can still apply for Maternity Benefit, Parent's Benefit and Paternity Benefit. The time you spend on PUP or being paid through TWSS or EWSS is treated the same as a period of employment. If you are receiving PUP and have not returned to work before you are due to start your maternity leave, you should ask your GP to complete form MB3 (pdf).

Asking for a review of your payment

If you work and also get a social welfare payment, and your hours or income from work have decreased, you can ask for your payment to be reassessed. If you lose all of your work, you can apply for PUP. You can continue to get both Working Family Payment and One-Parent Family Payment with your PUP.

If you cannot work because you are sick

If you are ill with COVID-19, you can get a special form of enhanced Illness Benefit for COVID-19 absences.

You can claim this payment if:

  • You are diagnosed with COVID-19 or
  • You are suspected of having COVID-19 and have been told to self-isolate or restrict your movements by a doctor or the HSE

You must be in employment or self-employment to qualify.

If you have been told to self-isolate or restrict your movements, you will get Illness Benefit for COVID-19 absences for 2 weeks. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you will get up to 10 weeks of the payment. If you do not qualify for Illness Benefit for COVID-19 absences, you may be able to receive Supplementary Welfare Allowance instead.

Illness Benefit for COVID-19 absences is paid from the first day of sickness. If you cannot attend work due to illness that is not COVID-19, or if you cannot go to work because you are cocooning, you can apply for standard Illness Benefit.

If your income is a mix of social welfare and pay from employment, you can continue to get your usual social welfare payment if you become sick or have to self-isolate. If your income is less than the rate of enhanced Illness Benefit you would get, you can apply to have your income topped up to this rate. This top up will not affect the other payments.

If you work in the civil and public sector, you do not need to apply for Illness Benefit for COVID-19 absences as separate leave arrangements are in place.

If you cannot work because you have to look after children

If you cannot go to work because you have to look after your children, your employer may be able to continue to pay you under the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme.

The Government has asked employers to be as flexible as possible in allowing staff time off to look after their children or other members of their families. If you are experiencing financial hardship while you are on leave from work, you can apply for the means-tested Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme.

If you left work to care for a child or another member of your family, you can get information and advice on the social welfare payments that may be available to you. Contact your local Citizens Information Centre or the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000. You can also contact the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection using MyWelfare or call 1890 800 024.

If you plan to take a holiday

If you are getting a jobseeker’s payment or the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, you can go on holiday on the island of Ireland (this includes Northern Ireland) for up to 2 weeks and get your payment on your return.

The Government advises that you should not travel abroad except for essential reasons, for example, a bereavement or urgent family business.

The Minister has stated that regulations will be amended to allow people getting PUP and jobseeker’s payments to go on holidays abroad for up to 2 weeks to countries on the COVID-19 Government Green List, and get their payment on their return.

If you cannot pay your rent

If you are having difficulty paying rent, you may be able to claim:

Rent Supplement is a short-term income support to people in the private rented sector who are finding it difficult to pay their rent.

Rent Supplement means assessments have changed to allow for the higher rates of payments that claimants get with PUP and enhanced Illness Benefit. This applies for applications lodged between 13 March and 31 March 2021. You can read more about how Rent Supplement is assessed.

You may be able to get HAP from your local authority if you are assessed as having a housing need. You have to apply to your local authority’s housing section to be included on the housing list. It is based on your means and is paid directly to your private landlord.

Going back to work

If you are returning to work you must close your COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) claim. You can do this is on mywelfare.ie.

If you are returning to work and your hours have been reduced, you may be entitled to keep or claim another social welfare payment:

All of the above, except for Short Time Work Support, depend on how much you earn from your employment.

Social welfare options when returning to work are described in more detail in our section on social welfare payments and work.

Collecting your social welfare payment

If you are unable to collect your payment from the post offices due to illness or self-isolation, you can:

  • Leave your social welfare payment at the post office until you can collect it yourself. Your payment will be in the post office for at least 20 days after you were first due to collect it. All payments are available in the post office for 90 days.
  • Nominate a temporary Agent to collect your payment. You can get a form for appointing a temporary Agent on the An Post website (pdf).
  • Apply to transfer your payment to your financial institution using form DIR PMT1 (pdf). Your social welfare payment can be paid directly into your personal account at a bank, building society or at certain credit unions.

You can use your expired Public Services Card for ID when collecting your social welfare payment.

Most social welfare payments that were being paid every 2 weeks return to weekly payments in August. You can find out more about when social welfare payments are paid.

Adult dependent increases

The weekly rate for an adult dependant has temporarily increased from €134.70 to €147 for the following payments:

PRSI contributions

If you are getting the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment or you are being paid under the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, when you apply for social insurance payments (for example, Maternity Benefit, Adoptive Benefit and the State Pension (Contributory), you will be treated as if you have been paying insurance contributions based on the social insurance class you were paying before you stopped working.

Free Travel Scheme

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has confirmed that all transport operators are now allowing customers with a PSC Free Travel Card to continue to avail of the Free Travel Scheme, even if their card has expired.

Intreo centres

AlIntreo centres are open 10-4pm. Social Welfare Branch Offices have reduced opening times. You can find out when Intreo centres and branch offices are open to the public on gov.ie.

You can continue to contact your Intreo centre or Social Welfare Branch Office by phone or email outside of these hours.

You can also get information through MyWelfare or call 1890 800 024.

If you have coronavirus symptoms or you have been medically required to self-isolate, you should not visit an Intreo Centre or local Social Welfare Branch Office.

Page edited: 22 September 2020