It is estimated that the total cost of State income and wage supports in place to help those out of work or in danger of losing their jobs during the Covid-19 crisis could reach up to €4.5bn over three months.

According to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the package of measures for sick pay, illness benefit and supplementary benefit, including the initial Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of €203 that was introduced on 9 March, was expected to cost up to €2.4bn.

Two weeks later, on 24 March, the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) was also introduced and the Pandemic Unemployment Payment was increased to €350 per week, alongside the Covid-19 Illness Payment, which also rose to €350 per week.

These changes had an estimated cost of €3.7 billion for the 12-week period, DPER said.

Latest coronavirus stories

However, the introduction of TWSS and higher rate of Pandemic Unemployment Payment is expected to lead to a reduction in the level of spending on the Sick Pay and Illness Benefit Scheme.

As a result, DPER now estimates the combined cost of all the payments being provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to be up to €4.5bn over 12 weeks.

There are 584,000 people are receiving the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, along with a further 212,000 on the Live Register receiving standard Jobseeker's Benefit, while the TWSS is subsidising the pay of 281,200 employees.

The health measures being put in place to fight Covid-19, including the scaling up of activity under the Covid-19 National Action Plan, the extra support for nursing homes and the temporary takeover of the private hospitals will cost a further €2bn, DPER said.

This, however, is before any reallocation of resources within the health service are taken into account.

DPER said €1bn in additional supports are also being put in place to help businesses with liquidity issues.

Measures in other departments that are aimed at addressing the impact of the coronavirus are, in the first instance, being paid for from within the existing budget for those departments as some planned expenditure in those areas may not now take place.

As a result, estimates for each department will have to be refreshed, consolidated and in some cases restructured in the Revised Estimates, DPER said.

Departments and State offices can also re-phase the drawdown of Exchequer funds in order to ensure suppliers are paid promptly during the crisis, it added.

The information was provided in response to a parliamentary question submitted by Fianna Fáil's Finance spokesman Michael McGrath.

Meanwhile, in the answer to another question from Mr McGrath, the Minister for Finance said 27,400 firms did not pay their January/February VAT payment when it was due in March.

This contributed to a shortfall of €1.1bn against the target of €2.185bn, a reduction of 51%.

Revenue announced a series of measures to help taxpayers and businesses experiencing cash flow and trading difficulties arising from the impact of Covid-19, including the suspension of all debt enforcement.

It also suspended the charging of interest on late payments in respect of January/February and March/April VAT liabilities as well as February, March and April employers' PAYE liabilities for small and medium enterprises.

The minister said all other tax heads remained relatively stable for March. But the situation is expected to deteriorate this month when the full impact of Covid-19 will be more apparent, he said.