Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD wrote to the Minister for Finance yesterday outlining Sinn Féin’s proposals for an Income Support Scheme and other measures to respond to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Writing to the Minister, Deputy Doherty called for a comprehensive financial package that would protect household incomes and put the interests of workers and families first. Sinn Féin have called on the Government to bring an emergency financial package to the Dáil this week, with the necessary legislation scrutinised by the Dáil before the end of this week.
Speaking today, Deputy Doherty said:
“The Coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact not only for public health, but also for jobs and businesses.
“It is time to move to the next phase of physical distancing, including the closure of all non-essential services, ensuring all measures are taken to protect the health of citizens.
“We must also recognise that this pandemic, and the measures we are taking to contain it, will have a huge impact on jobs and the economy.
“In order to mitigate the economic damage caused by this public health emergency, Government policy must act fast and do whatever it takes to support incomes, protect jobs and provide relief to businesses. This health emergency will be temporary. Effective Government policy must ensure that the economic damage is not lasting.
“To date, the response of Government has been totally inadequate. Thousands have lost their jobs with little income support from Government, while the banks have failed to shoulder their portion of the burden.
“Throughout Europe, Governments have brought forward emergency financial packages to protect incomes and businesses.
“It is alarming that the Irish Government is yet to provide any substantial financial package that provides security to workers and families, or announce a credible economic response that will ensure that economic damage is not lasting.
“Swift and decisive action to support incomes and protect workers and families is required, and it is required now. We must act fast and do whatever is needed.
“Yesterday, Sinn Féin proposed a range of measures that would protect workers and families now and take measures to help the economy reboot later.
“In addition to interventions in the utility, rental, insurance and mortgage markets to protect households, Sinn Féin have proposed the establishment of an Income Support Scheme that would protect all workers, and that would guarantee 100 percent of earnings for workers with annual earnings of up to €32,500. These payments would be distributed through their employers’ payroll, and would allow employer top-ups to supplement workers’ incomes.
“This wage guarantee for low-paid workers is crucial, as any scheme that involves a cut in the wage of those on low pay will fail to provide the financial security necessary in the coming weeks and months.
“In addition to guaranteeing the incomes of workers who have lost their jobs or been temporarily or partially laid off since this emergency began, it would help maintain the relationship between employees and their employers and achieve two essential objectives; the first to support the incomes of households during this time to avoid financial stress and hardship, and the second to support the survival of employers to ensure that employment can resume once this emergency ends and the economy returns to normal.
“Crucially, this scheme would also provide support for the self-employed, those working in the gig economy and independent contractors; allowing them to report themselves as idle and receive COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and then Jobseekers Benefit based on declared income of the prior year, up to a maximum of €525 per week.
“It will be necessary for Government to provide financial supports for businesses and firms also. It is imperative that such supports do not simply amount to a corporate bailout for the banks, big business or their shareholders. Sinn Féin have proposed a number of conditions that could be placed on financial assistance to ensure this does not become the case.
“The cost of the financial package which deals adequately with both the public health emergency and the economic fallout will be significant. It will require significant borrowing and will increase the level of public debt. For that reason, cross-party collaboration and Dáil scrutiny is essential.
“Given the fact that this pandemic fails to recognises borders and poses a collective threat to Europe’s economy, it must be addressed at a European level through the European Stability Mechanism but without the existing conditionality attached.
“All should be done to promote European solidarity and minimise the risk to which Ireland is exposed, ensuring that debts accumulated to finance this emergency response and recovery are serviced in a sustainable way.
“We will continue to work with the Government to ensure their response is effective both in protecting the health of our citizens and their financial security.”