THE number of people on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) has fallen below 100,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
here are now 97,130 people receiving the payment, a drop of 4,340 since last week.
Another 162,898 people were on the Live Register at the end of September.
PUP payments worth almost €9bn have been paid since the start of the pandemic.
The greatest reduction in recipients was in the accommodation and food services sector, the same as the last 18 weeks.
“To date, my department has paid over €8.8bn in pandemic unemployment payments to almost 900,000 people,” said Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys.
“This income support has been a vital lifeline for these people and their families.”
She said the fall below 100,000 recipients is a significant milestone.
It means there has been an almost 85pc reduction in recipients since the height of the pandemic in May last year.
“More and more people continue to return to work and the numbers on the PUP have now fallen every single week for the past nine months,” she said.
“This clearly demonstrates the significant progress we are making in getting people off the PUP and back into the workforce, as supported by our new Pathways to Work strategy.”
She said the Government will announce Budget 2022 tomorrow and it will be key to stimulating the economy and supporting sectors that have been negatively impacted by Covid-19.
“As Minister for Social Protection, my priority will be supporting those most vulnerable such as our older people, our carers, people with disabilities and low income families,” she said.
The PUP will be reduced in stages up to February next year, to align it with standard jobseeker payments.
The process of moving from the lower €203 rate of PUP to a jobseeker’s payment was due to begin in early September.
This was deferred until October 26, after all sectors have started to re-open.
Meanwhile, 1,972 people are receiving an enhanced illness benefit payment, compared with 1,843 last week.