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Know Your Rights: Social Welfare Payments and COVID-19

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With all the changes over the last two years, it’s difficult to keep up to date on current entitlements. Deirdre Vann Bourke , Kerry Citizens Information Manager, briefly describes the main payments for people affected by COVID-19 for people of working age (between the ages of 18 and 66).

For more in-depth information, or advice on your specific circumstances Deirdre advises you to telephone or email your local CIC where staff will be happy to help you.

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 have continued to pay you under the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS). EWSS is administered by Revenue through your employer’s payroll. The EWSS will end for most businesses on 30 April 2022. For businesses directly impacted by the public health restrictions introduced in December 2021, the EWSS will end on 31 May 2022. 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 lost their employment due to COVID-19. The PUP payment closed to new applicants from 22 January 2022. If you have lost your job, you can apply for Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) or Jobseeker's Allowance (JA) instead of PUP. JB is based on your PRSI contributions. JA is means tested. You apply for both payments at the same time (on the same application form) and the Department decides which one you qualify for.

If the number of days you work has decreased, you may be entitled to Short Time Work Support. You must be unemployed for three 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 three days per week (for example, you have been asked to work five mornings per week), you may qualify for Supplementary Welfare Allowance. You can call your local CIC to discuss your exact circumstances and possible entitlements.

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, your 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 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.

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. 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 may also get it if you are told by a doctor or the HSE to self-isolate or restrict movements due to being a probable source of infection. You must be in employment or self-employment to qualify. If you do not qualify for Illness Benefit for COVID-19 absences, you may be able to receive Supplementary Welfare Allowance instead. Enhanced 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, 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 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 by contacting your local CIC.

If you cannot pay your rent

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

Rent Supplement or Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)

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.

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 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:

* Short Time Work Support if you will work three days or fewer
* Working Family Payment if you have dependent children and will work more than 38 hours per fortnight
* Supplementary Welfare Allowance if you work more than three days (for example, you work five mornings) and are earning less than the basic social welfare rate for your family size
* Rent Supplement based on your means

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

PRSI contributions

Another point to note is that 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.

For anyone needing information, advice or have an advocacy issue, you can call a member of the local Citizens Information team in Kerry on 0818 07 7860, they will be happy to assist and make an appointment if necessary. The offices are staffed from Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm. Alternatively you can email on tralee@citinfo.ie or log on to www.citizensinformation.ie for further information.

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30 years of Innisfallen Island MassThe annual special concelebrated Mass on Innisfallen Island takes place next week.

Next Friday (June 21), members of the public are invited to attend the Mass taking place at 6.30pm. Now in its 30th year, the Mass was originally an idea by […]

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Next Friday (June 21), members of the public are invited to attend the Mass taking place at 6.30pm.

Now in its 30th year, the Mass was originally an idea by Geoffrey O’Donoghue who sadly died four years after it began.

“There was an Augustinian Monastery on Innisfallen Island and the people, including priests and monks and they say Brian Boro, went out there to study. The lake, Lough Lein is called ‘The Lake of Learning’,” said his wife Mary who carries on the tradition in his memory.

“My husband Geoffrey was a descendent of the O’Donoghues and he wanted to have Mass on the island. The O’Donoghues built Ross Castle and owned the lands and the lake surrounding it which was later donated by John McShane to the people of Killarney. He [Geoffrey] asked one of the friars and one day he got a call from the OPW that there would be a plaque unveiled to John McShane and they asked if the Mass could coincide with it. It was attended by Sr Pauline, John McShane’s daughter.”

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A photograph of one of Killarney’s hidden beauty spots was deemed the winner of Killarney Camera Club’s most recent competition.

Th standard was high throughout all categories but in the Novice category, Iryna Halaieva’s photograph of O’Sullivan’s Cascade was deemed the winner.

“A waterfall is my favourite waterbody and long exposure is my favourite photographic technique,” she said. “I do my best to have as many waterfalls as possible in my photo collection. I heard a lot about O’Sullivan’s Cascade and wanted to visit that hidden gem of Kerry. So, shortly before our club competition I went with a friend to Tomies Wood to photograph it. It was a dream come true for me.”

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