Cost of Living
The increased cost of energy bills, rents, interest rates and even day-to-day expenses like bread and milk has forced the Government to alleviate the financial pressure placed on its citizens. Following relentless calls from the Opposition, charities and workers groups, to name a few, the Government yesterday unveiled a package of measures to provide short-term assistance, particularly for fixed or low-income households, which recent price increases have the hardest hit.
Speaking on the topic, Minister Ryan stated :
“I am acutely aware of the impact of recent increases in the cost of living on households. Increased energy costs have played a significant role in this due to rising energy costs internationally. We have also seen inflation levels rise right across the economy, affecting not just our utility bills but also shopping and other household bills.”
Whatever the reason, these increases make it harder for people to make ends meet, whether they can pay their heating bill or buy their weekly shop. Results of a Red C Poll conducted on behalf of the Society of St Vincent de Paul found the number of people financially struggling since the onset of the pandemic has doubled.
The Government confirmed the complete support package would be somewhere in the region of €1.4-1.5 billion. Among the measures announced are:
- An enhanced energy credit to €200
- An extra €125 will be paid to those in receipt of fuel allowance on St’ Patrick’s Day
- The drug repayment scheme will be enhanced under the support package
- A 20% reduction in public transport fares (April until End of Year)
- Front-loading of the working family payment
- Reduction in caps for school transport fees
The Opposition criticised the plans, with calls for the Government to provide direct payments to individuals, rent freezes, and more supports for low-income workers. The Bill is currently before the Oireachtas and will be enacted by the beginning of March, allowing the scheme to become operational by the end of March.