Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe has called on the Government to support a Sinn Féin motion that would extend the fuel allowance to those on PUP support payments, saying that, with the restrictions set to continue for weeks to come, one shouldn’t be forced to choose between having a warm home or having something to eat.

Teachta Crowe said:

“COVID has seen household finances and budgets stretched to the limit as jobs and business have suffered due to the necessary restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Last week, over 475,000 people in the State received the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. That’s 475,000 people who have lost their job and lost their income from being let go from work.

“Many are struggling to afford basics like heating their homes. This is totally wrong and unacceptable. The Government must change this policy to support these workers who are now struggling through no fault of their own.

“No one should be forced to choose between having a warm home or having something to eat but that is happening in homes right across the state.

“Currently, people have to have been unemployed for at least 15 months before they can apply for financial support with their heating costs. This means that workers who lost their jobs over the course of the pandemic and who are still on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment are excluded from these vital financial supports.

“Sinn Féin have put down a Dáil motion that would change this so that PUP recipients would be eligible for the Fuel Allowance.

“The Sinn Féin motion would also put in place a double payment of the Fuel Allowance for two weeks in February. Under current public health guidelines, we’re all being told to stay at home for much more of the day than usual. As a result, many workers and families are seeing their energy and heating bills sky rocket. People need support in covering these costs in these extraordinary times.

“Lastly, the motion also calls on the Government to establish an initial discretionary COVID fund of €5 million to help households with utility debt and arrears, something that St. Vincent de Paul have flagged as a cause for alarm as we emerge from the pandemic. Other countries have set up similar funds to help families who have fallen behind on bills and we can do it here too.

“This motion is about supporting struggling families. The proposals are aimed at those most in need and are targeted in order to support households where jobs have been lost and workers who are out of work because of the pandemic.

“I hope that the Government will see some sense, and do the right thing by these workers and their families. We need to do much more to support workers and families across the state during these unprecedented times.”