A businessman who has had a clothes shop in Dundalk for the last 25 years has told how he is not eligible to receive the Covid-19 payment because he lives in Newry despite his store here being closed during the current lockdown.
Daniel Gawley, who owns Classics Menswear on Park Street, said that he feels like he has been left “high and dry” by the Irish Government as he can’t receive the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment as he lives in northern Ireland.
Daniel said that he is not entitled to the financial support of the Covid-19 payment despite having his business in Dundalk for 25 years and paying his taxes, rates, and rent here.
The Department of Social Protection confirmed that “frontier workers”, or cross-border workers, who work on one side of the border but live on the other can only get State unemployment payments from the jurisdiction they reside.
Daniel said: “I have had to close my shop again for another six weeks and on top of that I am not entitled to receive the Covid-19 payment as I live in Newry.
“I have had my clothes shop in Dundalk for 25 years.
“I pay my taxes and rates here, but I am not entitled to a single €1 from the Government to help me through these difficult times.
“It is hard enough having to close my business and have no income, and on top of that I am getting no financial support from the State here even though it is the Government here that have told me I have to close my shop due to the pandemic.
“My business is in the Republic of Ireland, and I pay my taxes, bills and rent here, which I have done for 25 years but because my home address is in northern Ireland I am not entitled to the Covid-19 payment, I think that is disgraceful.
“I have had to close my shop for another six weeks and I will have no source of income for that whole time.
“It is tough on all businesses being hit with another lockdown, but at least they can get the Covid-19 payment that will help them tick over.
“I am closed, and I have absolutely no money coming in, but I still have rent and bills to pay.
“It is very unfair as my business is in the Republic of Ireland and I pay my taxes here.
“It is a terrible predicament to be in, it is an awful situation and extremely stressful.
“All those years paying my taxes here and the government has left me high and dry, it is crippling.”
Daniel said that he wasn’t eligible to receive the Covid-19 payment over the last three-month lockdown in March.
The businessman said he was able to apply for financial support in Northern Ireland last March but wouldn’t get a payment until August adding that the amount he got “wasn’t worth talking about”.
“I was doing everything right and making sure all the coronavirus safety measures were in place in my shop”, he said.
“It is a small business and I only had one customer coming into the shop at a time.
“And now my livelihood has been shut down again for six weeks and I haven’t an online facility.
“And on top of that I can’t get the Covid-19 payment to help us through this tough time after paying my taxes here for 25 years.
“It is an extremely stressful situation – you couldn’t make it up.”
The Department of Social Protection said the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is payable to people resident in this jurisdiction who lose their employment as a result of the pandemic.
“People who work on one side of a border but live on the other and return home at least once a week are considered ‘frontier workers”, a spokesman told the Democrat.
“Under EU social security regulations unemployment payments to wholly unemployed frontier workers are made by the social administration of the State where the person resides rather than the State where they work.
“These arrangements continue to apply following the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union on foot of a bilateral agreement between the UK and Ireland last year.
“The Northern Ireland administration is also taking this approach with respect to frontier workers working in Northern Ireland but living in the Republic of Ireland.
“This is not a new rule and reflects the ongoing position for the payment of social welfare benefits to frontier workers based in Northern Ireland, and indeed those frontier workers residing throughout Europe.”
The Department of Social Protection said that ‘frontier workers’ can continue to receive some of their wages if employers in the Republic of Ireland claim the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).
“Employers in this jurisdiction can claim the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) for all of their workers including frontier workers, who pay Irish PAYE and Social Insurance, from the Revenue Commissioners”, the spokesman continued.
“In this way workers who work in say, Louth, but live in Down, can, with the co-operation of their employers, continue to a receive a proportion of their wages if their employer signs up to the EWSS.”
However, Daniel, like other business owners in the Republic of Ireland who live across the border, are unable to avail of this as they are self-employed.
In Northern Ireland there is the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Grant.
The Government in Northern Ireland will pay a taxable grant of 80% of self-employed individuals’ average monthly trading profit over the last three tax years, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.