Fianna Fáil TD for Wexford James Browne has called on the government to allow people to help out with the fruit and veg harvest without their COVID-19 payments being affected.

He explained, “Many people working in the hospitality and tourism industry have lost their jobs are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and are now receiving a state payment to help them through this difficult time.

“One of the industries which is crying out for workers at this time is horticulture, with the fruit and veg harvest now beginning. This is a big sector in Wexford and people who would have been normally unavailable are now free to work.

“This is a critical time for farmers also; the fruit and veg is perishable and the harvesting window is short, with some crops it may only last one day. If left unharvested, the crops will rot in the fields and wash down drains.

“There is no reason that this work cannot be undertaken while respecting the social and physical distancing guidelines.

“A similar initiative has been rolled out in the UK, whereby people can work while receiving a COVID-19 related payment and are taxed on the money they earn while working. There is no reason why we couldn’t adopt this approach in Ireland.

“I am calling on the government examine this measure so that people, who have been made temporarily redundant as a result of the public health emergency and who are receiving the COVID-19 payment to be allowed to undertake this work without having their payments affected. This would allow these people to top up their COVID payment and ensure that farmers get their crops harvested.

“I am calling on Minister Doherty to examine this proposal, which I believe is in the interests of the workers and the horticulture sector.”