The Government has now spent over €3.3 billion on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment scheme since it was launched in mid March, according to the latest figures from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

The number of people receiving the PUP has fallen to 225,000 - down 5,400 compared to last week.

The latest figures represent a decline of over 62% since the peak of the crisis in early May, when 598,000 claimants were completely reliant on the payment for income support. 

In the past seven days, 8,100 people have closed their PUP claims, and around 4,700 will receive their final payment tomorrow. 

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys noted that the Government expenditure of €3.3 billion on the scheme over the last six months was almost twice as much as was spent on Jobseeker's Allowance in all of 2019. 

Thanking employers and workers in every sector for their efforts in suppressing the coronavirus and rebuilding the economy, she acknowledged that this continues to be "an extremely difficult and challenging time for everyone." 

"We can see from this week's figures that more people are signalling that they are returning to work. I want to see this trend continue in the coming months.," the minister said.

The PUP scheme has been extended to the end of March 2021.

However, on 17 September, the top rate of €350 for those earning over €300 per week prior to the payment will fall to €300. 

From that date, those who previously earned €200-€300 per week will receive €250, while those who previously earned below €200 will still be entitled to €203. 

On 1 February 2021, the top rate will fall again to €250, and on 1 April - when the PUP scheme ends - it will reach €203 - the equivalent of Jobseeker's Benefit.

Apart from the 225,000 people claiming the PUP, a further 244,600 people are on the Live Register and claiming Jobseeker's Benefit, while another 365,000 are having their wages subsidised by the State through the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme. 

However, the TWSS is ending tonight and from tomorrow will be replace by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme which will run until the end of March 2021. 

The top sectors returning to work this week are Accommodation and Food Services, Education, Wholesale/Retail/Repair of Motor Vehicles, Administrative and Support Service Activities, and Human Health/Social Work Activities. 

The two largest age cohorts returning to work are 25-34 and 35-44, with 1,400 going back to work in each group. 

93,300 people who were claiming the PUP are now in jobs subsidised by the TWSS - an increase of 1000 over the last week. 

The department also reminds PUP recipients that they can also avail of the Back to Education Allowance for full time second or third-level courses. 

Meanwhile, a total of 57,350 people aged under 66 have been medically certified to receive the €350 Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit. 

Of those, around 7.5% were actually diagnosed with Covid-19, while the remainder were self-isolating on a precautionary basis. 

1,184 people are currently receiving Enhanced Illness Benefit.