Sinn Féin is calling on all TDs from all parties to back a their motion to help workers and families who are struggling to pay their heating and electricity bills.
The motion will be brought forward in the Dáil on Wednesday (3rd February).
The pandemic has been extremely tough on workers’ finances, with many people losing their jobs or facing a big drop in income.
Last week, over 475,000 people in the State received the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. That’s 475,000 people who have lost their job and lost their income from work.
Many of them will now be struggling to pay their bills, get food on the table and stay on top of paying for daily essentials. No one should be forced to choose between having a warm home or eating.
Under current regulations, people must be unemployed for over 15 months before they are entitled to financial support with their heating costs. This means that workers who lost their jobs over the course of the pandemic and are on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment are excluded from these vital financial supports.
Many are struggling to afford to heat their homes. This is totally unfair and unacceptable. The Government must change this policy to support workers who are struggling through no fault of their own.
Sinn Féin’s motion would change this so that PUP recipients would be entitled to the Fuel Allowance.
This change would be both reasonable and achievable. It wouldn’t cost the State much in the grand scheme of spending but, crucially, it would make a huge difference to workers and families under financial pressure.
Sinn Féin’s motion would also put in place a double payment of the Fuel Allowance for two weeks in February. Under current public health guidelines, we’re all being told to stay at home for much more of the day than usual. As a result, many workers and families are seeing their energy and heating bills sky rocket. People need support in covering these extraordinary costs.
Lastly, the motion also calls on the Government to establish an initial discretionary Covid fund of €5 million to help households with utility debt and arrears, something that St. Vincent de Paul have flagged as a cause for alarm as we emerge from the pandemic. Other countries have set up similar funds to help families who have fallen behind on bills and we can do it here too.
This motion is about helping struggling families. The proposals are aimed at those most in need and they are targeted in order to support households where jobs have been lost- workers who are without work through no fault of their own.
I hope that the Government will do the right thing by these workers and their families. We must support workers and families in Mayo and across the state with these vital measures.
A significant proportion of households will be in energy debt as we emerge from Covid-19, with those who have lost their jobs struggling to meet the cost of heating their homes this winter.
Fuel Allowance is not available to recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. A person who loses their job cannot access the Fuel Allowance until they are in receipt of a Jobseeker’s payment for more than over 15 months.
Engagement with newly-formed National One Parent Family Alliance (ten organisations, including One Family, SPARK, St. Vincent de Paul, Barnardos, Childrens’ Rights Alliance & FLAC) has highlighted pressing concerns about the ability of families to keep their homes warm and the issue of utility debt and arrears.
Potential to show a national response to supporting families with fuel costs – Deirdre Hargey MLA is providing a £200 Covid-19 heating payment to benefit 200,000 of the most vulnerable people in the North
PMB – Wednesday 3rd February @10am
We are tabling a motion to:
·Suspend the requirement that a person who loses their job must be in receipt of a Jobseeker’s payment for over 15 months before they can qualify for the Fuel Allowance, for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic and review the qualifying period thereafter;
·Extend the Fuel Allowance of €28 per week to Pandemic Unemployment Payment recipients;
·Establish a discretionary fund for Covid-19 utility debt of an initial five million euro to provide assistance to individuals and households struggling with COVID-19 related heating and electricity costs;
·Ensure that the budget for the Exceptional Needs Payment is sufficient as well as accessibility to and flexibility from Community Welfare Officers;
·Make a double payment of the Fuel Allowance to all existing recipients for two weeks in February.
·Discretionary utility debt fund: €5m
·Two double payments for existing fuel allowance recipients: approx. €10m per week
·Extending fuel allowance to PUP: up to €13.5m per week max. (if every person on the PUP got it)
·Removal of 15-month rule for those on job seekers payments: Not possible to determine – significantly less than cost of extension to PUP
·Exceptional Needs Payments: No immediate cost incurred
National One Parent Family Alliance (NAPO) – Supporting One Parent Families During COVID-19 Restrictions: Ten Urgent Actions for Government (Press release)
Household Debt – real life impact: (Document)
SVP – Investing to Save: Building an Equal Society After Covid-19 (Report)
Senator Lynn Boylan – Living in Energy Poverty (Report)
Social Justice Ireland – Poverty Proofing Against the Poverty Premium (Policy Issues)
County breakdown for the PUP paid last week in an attachment at the bottom of this page: https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/9f186-update-on-payments-awarded-for-covid-19-pandemic-unemployment-payment-and-enhanced-illness-benefit/