Government Announces New COVID-19 Income Support Scheme

Posted on
26 Mar 2020
by
Tony Ward, The Wheel's Director of Finance

See important update (27 March) to Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme section below.


As you are likely aware, earlier this week the Government announced a range of supports for employers who are experiencing disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and for employees who have either become unemployed, or are unable to work due to illness as a result of the crisis.

This blog will provide you with an overview of the schemes which are currently available.

With regard to the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme covered in more detail below, all employers who meet the qualifications for the scheme are are eligible - including community and voluntary organisations and charities. There is however a great deal of uncertainty related to many aspects of this scheme as it relates to both private businesses and charities, community and voluntary organisations, and social enterprises.

We have fielded a number of questions on the applicability of the scheme to charities, community and voluntary organisations, and social enterprises, and how evidence of loss of income will be interpreted. The short answer is that we do not know yet, but are in one-to-one contact with the Revenue to clarify these matters, and I am very happy to field individual queries or experience to date with their applications for support. So please revert with any questions you might have on this scheme: tony@wheel.ie

We will be building a bank of questions to which we will be seeking clarifications from the Revenue as the scheme shapes up. We will also be working to make this scheme work for charities facing decisions to lay off staff - and we will be engaging with Government to ensure that if this scheme as implemented doesn't work for charities an alternative that supports charities and community and voluntary organisations is put into place.

The Revenue have assured us they are providing as full a service as possible to charities during this difficult time, and rest assured, we will bring updates and clarifications to you on this scheme as they emerge.

I'd like to outline now some of the key features so far available on the three existing emergency schemes, as well as give you an update on some of our recent correspondence with the Revenue on your behalf.

Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme

This scheme enables employees, whose employers are affected by the pandemic, to receive significant supports directly from their employer. It will be available to employers who keep employees on the payroll throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning employers can retain links with employees for when business picks up after the crisis. 

To qualify for the scheme, employers must:

  • Be experiencing significant negative economic disruption due to COVID-19
  • Be able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Revenue, a minimum of a 25% decline in turnover
  • Be unable to pay normal wages and normal outgoings fully
  • Retain their employees on the payroll.

Further information, and details of how to apply are available here.

It is worth noting that the operation of this scheme is evolving, so if you have queries on any operation detail please contact the Revenue's National Employer Helpline.

One point of particular clarification we obtained from the Revenue: where the scheme encourages organisations to maintain income as close to 100% as possible – this refers to employee net pay and any top ups from employers – it does not refer to organisational income.

FAQs: the Revenue have published a list of Frequently Asked Questions providing employers, payroll operators and agents with additional information on the operation of the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme - view them here.

IMPORTANT UPDATE TO TEMPORARY COVID-19 WAGE SUBSIDY SCHEME DETAIL (27 March 2020):

We have received important clarifications from the Revenue regarding this scheme. We can now recommend that organisations experiencing what is repeatedly referred to as business interruption, can confidently apply under the scheme to help retain staff during this coming 12-week period. The full eligibility criteria is set out here.

It has been clarified to us that all employers are eligible, whether charities, nonprofits or private companies.

Regarding how to demonstrate to Revenue that the charity’s business has been negatively affected, please see this document that was published by Revenue this morning. We urge all members to read it in detail.

Amongst other things, this guidance addresses a question we have received from many members on the use of reserves to fund wage payments. It specifically states that, having cash reserves will not be interpreted as an ability to pay wages as long as it can be demonstrated that there has been significant business interruption and that employers are making every effort to ensure staff continue to benefit from full pay. For many charities reserves may be regarded as restricted and are, in my opinion, not available to be used to pay other costs such as wages.

This clarification appears to go a long way to balance the need to ensure the scheme is properly administered and made available to those who really need it, with direction for a self-assessment by organisations as to their own particular circumstances. It would be important, as outlined in the guidance, to retain evidence of business disruption and the rationale for making an application under the scheme.

(End of update from 27 March)

COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

A payment of €350 per week is available to all employees, and the self-employed, who have lost employment due to the pandemic. The payment will be in place for 12-weeks. Applications can be made via My Welfare here.

Illness Benefit Due to COVID-19 Absences

If an employee is told to self-isolate by a doctor or the HSE, or has been diagnosed with COVID-19, they can apply for an enhanced Illness Benefit payment of €350 per week. To be eligible for this payment a person must be confined to their home or a medical facility. This payment is €350 per week, and will be paid for a maximum of 2-weeks where a person is self-isolating, and for a maximum of 10-weeks if a person has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Details of how to apply for this benefit are here.

VAT Compensation Scheme

A number of you have inquired about the deadline for making a claim for 2019 (which currently remains 30 June 2020). We've been in touch with the Revenue about extending this deadline in light of the demands placed on the charity sector during the current crisis, but a decision has not yet been made. If you're planning on making a claim this year, it may be prudent to work towards the June deadline for the moment. Applications can be made through Revenue Online Service (ROS) with details here. Further information on the scheme is available here on our website, and if there are any extensions to the deadline made, we'll be disseminating that through our various communications channels.

Charitable Donation Scheme and other Revenue services to charities

Revenue have advised that they are continuing to process CHY 3 and CHY 4 forms as normal, and as quickly as possible, during this crisis. Information on the scheme is available here.

I hope the above information will help support you during these difficult times, and if you have any questions or feedback, please let me know at tony@wheel.ie.

#CommunityReponseIRL

www.wheel.ie/COVID-19