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Extra bank holiday and tax credits among ‘Covid bonus’ options, Tánaiste says

By James Ward, PA

An extra bank holiday and tax credits are among the measures under consideration as part of a “Covid bonus”, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

The Government is discussing a number of options to reward workers on the frontline for their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Varadkar said he expects the bonus would be paid to Irish citizens before the end of the year, with speculation that a decision could be made on Budget day.

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Speaking from Washington on Monday, he said: “I think if there is going to be a pandemic bonus, and I think there should be, it’s likely to fall into this financial year in terms of cost.

Frontline workers are expected to benefit from a ‘Covid bonus’ (Damien Storan/PA)

“It would ideally be paid before the end of this year, and therefore it would not impact on the budget for next year.”

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Frontline workers outside of the health service, such as those in retail and transport, are expected to benefit from the bonus.

Mr Varadkar said it was easier for the Government to provide a bonus to public sector workers than private sector ones, with alternatives being examined.

“It is difficult for Government to pay bonuses to people in the private sector,” he told RTÉ.

“We can do that quite easily for people who are in our employment in the public sector, for the private sector it is more complicated.

“So we’d have to think of other ways of doing that. One idea under consideration, for example, is an additional bank holiday.

“Other ideas under consideration for example are things around tax credits.

 

“But all those things are now only under discussion, and we haven’t come to a conclusion yet.”

Mr Varadkar declined to give a date for the potential additional bank holiday, after Fine Gael TD Ciaran Cannon suggested it should tie in with the American holiday of Thanksgiving.

“You know the possibility of (an) additional bank holiday is under discussion in Government, but not to the extent that we’ve discussed dates or anything like that,” Mr Varadkar said.

“There’s no decision at all on dates and that may even require primary legislation. That needs to be borne in mind too.”

The Tánaiste added: “The idea of an additional bank holiday would be for two reasons really.

“It would be around remembrance, remembrance of the fact that 5,000 people or more have passed away and they have families who are grieving.

“And also perhaps a way of recognising volunteers, as well as workers, who made a special effort during the pandemic.”

 

Mr Varadkar said the public finances are in better shape than predicted, amid concerns over the cost of the bonus.

He said: “Thankfully we’re doing better than we thought we’d be doing at this point in the year.

“If we go back to the summer economic statement, we anticipated that spending would be higher, and that tax receipts would be lower.

“We’re ahead of where we thought we would be, and that gives us a small bit of flexibility for the rest of the year.

“But at the same time, we’re still in deficit and we need to bear that in mind too.”

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