The Government is handing out more than £10m a day to workers in Northern Ireland on furlough, it has been revealed.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said the economic measures put in place by the Government in the wake of the pandemic mean that over £300m per month is currently being paid to workers across Northern Ireland by the Treasury.
The furlough scheme - which pays 80% of a worker's salary up to a £2,500 monthly cap - currently supports around 7.5 million jobs, although employers will be expected to pick up a share of the bill from August as the economy reopens.
Mr Campbell raised the significance of the furlough scheme at yesterday's meeting of Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
"Whilst the furlough scheme is not broken down by region, we do know that some 7.5 million people across the UK have been enrolled on it, and figures from the Office of National Statistics have suggested that around 20% of the workforce has been furloughed," the DUP MP said.
"Even taking a conservative estimate of Northern Ireland figures, it would mean that over £300m per month is currently being paid to people across the province.
"That is a huge economic commitment and underlines the scale of the economic assistance being offered during this unprecedented crisis.
"This assistance of course comes on top of the £10bn annual economic benefit which Northern Ireland receives every year and the other UK-wide support and Barnett consequentials we have received specifically due to Covid-19 announcements."
Mr Campbell said devolution provides the ability for all UK regions to tailor a response to the Covid-19 appropriate to their particular conditions.
"However, all regions have benefited hugely from the UK-wide response to this, and the response across all regions has been much more collective than the political motivations of some would allow them to admit."
Meanwhile, a Co Armagh retail manager says he has found the "growing narrative" on social media and elsewhere, suggesting that those on furlough may lose their work ethic, "insulting".
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he was preparing to "wean" workers and business off the programme amid concerns that the nation was becoming "addicted" to it earlier in May, before extending it until the end of October.
Mr Stringer (54), who did not want to give his full name, is a retail manager who has been furloughed along with his colleagues.
He said he had noticed a "growing narrative" on social media and elsewhere suggesting those on furlough may lose their work ethic.
"One statement was 'this will create a new wave of dole lovers'," Mr Stringer said. "I can't see it. I personally find it insulting. The people I work with in the main would cash in holiday entitlement if it was possible. They mostly live to work, including myself.
"We keep in contact on an almost daily basis through a few WhatsApp groups. I regularly ask them how they're coping and keeping busy etc. They all, to a person, cannot wait to get back to work."
Mr Stringer said that furlough had "undoubtedly saved our jobs", and that he had "experienced many things - but nothing like this".
"It's a lifeline everyone with an ounce of sense knows will end at some point," he said. "For me I'd be happy if it ended by a return to work sooner rather than later. Providing it's safe and there's no second wave of Covid-19."