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National economic recovery plan: Cabinet is likely to approve a €1 billion plan today

DUBLIN: The cabinet is likely to approve today a €1 billion recovery plan aimed at a comprehensive economic recovery of Ireland. It is estimated that the government has designed an economic recovery plan to bring millions of people back to work and public life.

The plan, which has been approved by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, and Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, will be considered by the Cabinet today.

The plan also includes measures to phase off the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). Charities such as St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) have warned that reducing and phasing out PUP might put low-income families in financial troubles. However, the government has opted to disregard all of this and proceed.

The recovery plan will also include measures targeting those who have lost their jobs following the pandemic, as well as those in the digital sector who have been unable to return to their previous jobs. According to government sources, the government’s plan is focused on a rapid recovery with no tax hike.

Reforms such as workplace sick pay, the living wage and auto-enrolment pensions are also features of the plan.

Significance for “green projects” and IT sector

Top government agencies have indicated that the core of the recovery plan will be projects that focus on “green projects” and IT sectors, enrich businesses, provide relief to the unemployed, strengthen the workforce, and improve the well-being of the elderly and disabled.

The government’s objective is to increase employment levels above what they were before the pandemic. The plan aims to have 2.5 million people in employment by 2023.

More than half of the recovery plan is earmarked for green projects, including loan guarantees for retrofitting, public transportation, and other projects. The plan is based on four key elements: sustainable public finance, getting people back to work, restructuring sustainable enterprises, and balanced and inclusive recovery.

Green Skills Action program

A new Green Skills Action programme will be launched to expand the new retrofitting scheme. The plan is to include 5,000 more people to the new online green skills program. Training will also be provided to help those in the construction sector to make the buildings more usable and sustainable for the elderly and the disabled.

€225 million for Department of Higher Education

A total of €225 million is set aside for the Department of Higher Education, including €40 million for a transformation fund for Technological Universities across the country and €70 million for climate action and digital infrastructure research projects. There will be good financial packages to enhance the skills and abilities of those who return to work.

PUP to be phased out

PUP will be phased out as part of the recovery plan. New applicants will not receive PUP from July, and it will be phased out entirely by February. Students returning to third-level education in September will also not be eligible for PUP.

The plan also aims to cut PUP by €50 to €300 and €200 by mid-September. There are also plans to reduce it again by the end of the year.

EWSS extended until September

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) will be extended from June to September. The plan also aims to expand support under the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) to help businesses reopen. Businesses on the CRS Scheme will receive an additional “bullet payment”. Those who exit the scheme will be granted an equivalent of six weeks of the scheme to replace the restart grant that was implemented last year.

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