Farm assist payments need to be increased in line with Covid-19 unemployment payments for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis, according to ICMSA farm business chairperson, Shane O’Loughlin.
He said that in times of national crisis such as we are experiencing, it is essential that all sections of society are treated equally and seen to be treated equally.
He stressed that there are now many farm families who are “severely stretched” due to the downturn, in particular, livestock prices and simply cannot make ends meet.
“There’s a system-glitch emerging where farmers are unable to receive the self-employed pandemic payment because they’re earning some income – albeit, very severely reduced.”
“That means they have to turn to farm assist as quickly as possible but then we see that farm assist is noticeably lower than the Covid -19 unemployment benefit. ICMSA thinks this should be remedied quickly and fairly”, said Mr O’Loughlin.
The ICMSA farm business chairperson also said that the assessment for eligibility will need to be done on a ‘current year’ basis.
He is also of the opinion that we will need speedier processing given the anticipated increase in applications in the coming weeks as the impact of reduced farm output prices hits, dropping farmer income and making more eligible for the payment.
“As farm assist is a means-tested payment for low-income farmers, there will be many farmers who believe that they are currently not entitled to it.”
“But the means-test, takes account of virtually every form of income in a specific way, that means that many farmers are now likely to be eligible – particularly given the collapse in beef prices”, said Mr O’Loughlin.
He concluded by emphasising to farmers who are under severe financial pressure that it is always better to “reach out quickly” to their banks and government and related agencies to get the help that he said was available.
“A real signal of that official support, he repeated, would be increasing the payment available under farm assist to the levels of the Covid-19 payment.” he concluded.