Thousands of people currently receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will see their entitlement fall by up to €100 a week from today. 

Up to now, the top rate of PUP payment for those laid off due to the Covid-19 crisis was €350 a week, which applied to those who were earning more than €200 a week prior to the pandemic.  

The lower rate of €203 was payable to those whose pre-pandemic earnings were below €200. 

However from today, the top rate will fall to €300 for workers who were previously earning over €300 a week.

A new rate of €250 will apply to those whose pre-Covid earnings were between €200 and €300 a week.

The lower rate of €203 for those earning less than €200 remains unchanged. 

The reduced entitlements will be reflected in welfare payments due this Tuesday. 

PUP rates will be further reduced in February, and the scheme will expire on March 31 2021, after which claimants will avail of normal Jobseekers benefits. 

It was originally due to be closed to new entrants from today, but that deadline has been extended to the end of December. 

As of last Monday, 209,941 people were claiming the PUP - down from the peak of 598,000 in early May.  

However as the coronavirus surge continues, it remains to be seen whether that number will climb again if extensive health restrictions are re-imposed.

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett has said that reducing the payment is terribly unfair for people who cannot go to work due to public health restrictions.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne programme he said that a step-down income subsidy should be introduced to support workers.

Mr Boyd Barrett has said that cutting payments "dangerously threatens the principle that we are all in in together" as it punishes people who work in certain sectors financially "who have done nothing wrong" and cannot work and earn a living. 

He said that putting in place an income subsidy would allow taxi drivers, musicians and others work where they can but have their income subsidised.

He said this would give them an option other than to work sporadically and get no payment or do not work at all and get a reduced payment.

He said that certain sectors have no prospect of recovery and there is therefore no justification for cutting their payments.

However Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill told the programme that the changes to the PUP reflect what people were earning prior to Covid-19 and this was being done in solidarity with workers.

She said that more nuanced payments are needed to keep the subsidy going for longer.

Ms Carroll MacNeill said that people getting the payments can do irregular work and maintain their PUP.

She said that the scheme has been extended until next April and the rates are expected to change again in February.

The Fine Gael TD said the payments cannot go on forever and while reducing them and graduating payments, the Government is also introducing stimulus measures for sectors including taxi drivers and the entertainment industry.