The Government has now spent €4 billion on Pandemic Unemployment Payment supports to people who have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 crisis, according to the latest figures from the Department of Social Protection. 

342,505 people will receive PUP support this week, up 12,500 since last week's tally of 329,991. 

Reflecting the inexorable rise in claims, this week's bill for PUP payments will be €99 million, up from €95.5 million last week, and €85.6 million two weeks ago. 

However, the number of claimants is nowhere near the peak of 598,000 from early May.

A further 203,172 people were on the Live Register at the end of October. 

In total, almost 550,000 people (545,677) are currently entirely dependent on the state for their income. 

On the positive side, over the last week around 3,700 people closed their PUP claims, with 2,319 doing so because they were returning to work.

The sectors with the highest number of people eligible for a PUP payment this week are Accommodation and Food Service Activities (100,994), followed by Wholesale and Retail Trade (55,516) and Other Sectors (including hairdressers and beauty salons) (30,141). 

The Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said today's further rise in the number of claims was anticipated and reflected the impact of moving to Level 5 restrictions. 

She said that the €4 billion paid out in PUP payments demonstrated the Government's commitment to supporting workers throughout the pandemic. 

She acknowledged that many people had made huge sacrifices in following the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team, adding: "But the fall in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days is encouraging and gives cause for optimism ahead of the upcoming Christmas period." 

Meanwhile, the number of people aged under 66 who have been medically certified for the Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit of €350 per week since March has reached 84,803.

As of today, 3,032 people are currently receiving the benefit, with the number of claimants rising in every county this week.

The sectors with the highest number of Illness Benefit claims are Wholesale/Retail (18,178), Human Health and Social Work (15,772) and Manufacturing (11,707). 

The Department reiterated that supports are available to self-employed people, including taxi drivers, arts/entertainment workers and others, who can now earn up to €480 per month while retaining their full PUP entitlement.

The Part-Time Job Incentive Scheme is also available to self-employed people coming off PUP or a Jobseeker's payment.

It allows a person to receive a partial jobseeker's payment, while retaining employment income, and may be particularly suited where a self-employed person's income exceeds the €480 per month threshold for PUP. 

The Short Time Work Support scheme may also allow certain workers to claim casual or part-time jobseeker’s payments for days of unemployment, even where their employer is claiming the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme for days of employment.