By Fiach Mac Fhionnlaoich
Thanks to the current national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students have had much to be concerned about. University closures and the accompanying transition to online learning, as well as efforts to secure their own health and those of the most vulnerable to the virus in their social circle. That is all without mentioning the financial strains that many students face at the best of times. While many students are returning to the family home, there are those for whom that is not an option and others who must continue to pay for rental accommodation for one reason or another.
Luckily, some of the government’s measures to ease the financial burdens created by the forced closures of many public institutions and private businesses also extend to students. The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have confirmed that working students can avail of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment in the event that they are not being paid by their employers due to the current shutdown.
Recipients of this temporary payment receive €203 a week for up to six weeks. You can apply for the payment directly or otherwise your employer can apply on your behalf in order to continue to be able to pay you. You can apply for this payment online or by completing a one-page paper form which can be downloaded and printed. You can then post this form to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection posting it via Freepost.
Applicants for this payment do not require a Public Services Card and have been advised to avoid visiting an Intreo Centre if possible. Further information on how to apply for this emergency payment can be found at https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/social_welfare/social_welfare_payments/unemployed_people/covid19_pandemic_unemployment_payment.html.
In the event that you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or are told to self-isolate by a doctor and are thus unable to continue work, you may also apply for an enhanced rate of illness benefit. In the case of self-isolation, the payment will be made for a maximum of two weeks, while in the case of a COVID-19 diagnosis, it will be paid for the totality of the period you are absent from work as a result of the illness. Further information can be found at: https://www.gov.ie/en/service/df55ae-how-to-apply-for-illness-benefit-for-covid-19-absences/.
In addition, all SUSI grants will continue to be paid as normal for the remainder of the university year, with COVID-19 not predicted to interfere with the delivery of these payments to students. Students in rental accommodation have been urged to be proactive about raising issues with landlords in regards to their tenancy such as rental payments at this time and to contact the Residential Tenancies Board in order to aid them in resolving any disputes.
Any further government action to alleviate the financial pressure on students has yet to be announced.