Government announces $17B to support welfare recipients and business
12 March 2020 at 4:29 pm
But not-for-profit advocates say charities also need to be supported through the economic uncertainty of coronavirus
Newstart and other income support recipients will receive a one-off $750 stimulus payment as the Morrison government looks to protect the Australian economy from the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday announced a $17.6 billion plan to combat the economic effects of coronavirus on businesses, workers and vulnerable households.
The package is expected to help up to 6.5 million Australians and 3.5 million businesses.
But the Community Council for Australia has called on the government to look beyond short-term business stimulus and ensure the charity sector is also supported.
CCA chair Rev Tim Costello noted that charities employ more than 1.3 million Australians.
“That is more than the retail sector, more than agriculture, mining, or any other industry. Charities need certainty if they are to maintain their staff,” Costello said.
“Governments could help with that certainty by guaranteeing not to cut funding for the next 12 months. A 12-month moratorium on funding cuts would provide increased certainty for charities and boost employment.”
CCA CEO David Crosbie added that charities were often overlooked when it came to stimulus packages and economic incentives, despite the fact that they turn over around $150 billion each year and contribute more than 5 per cent to GDP.
He said the government should be actively considering a stimulus package for the charity sector.
“Following the bushfires and the emerging coronavirus pandemic, CCA believes governments could provide more stimulus to the economy, increase employment and strengthen communities by investing more in the capacity of charities to better serve their communities,” Crosbie said.
“Stimulus should not just be about small business and tax incentives.”
The Australian Council of Social Service said a key missing gap in the stimulus package was investment in public infrastructure such as social housing construction.
CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said this would help create jobs and reduce homelessness.
“Another missing gap appears to be support for community service organisations on the front line of responding to the economic and health challenges, such as homelessness and childcare services,” Goldie said.
“Overall, while some parts of today’s stimulus package are likely to be effective in the short term, we will need to see much more from the government in coming weeks in order to safeguard people and the economy.”
Morrison said the stimulus package was focused on keeping Australians in jobs and helping small and medium-sized businesses to stay in business.
“Just as we have acted decisively to protect the health of the Australian people, based on the best evidence and medical advice, our support package responds to the economic challenges presented by this pandemic in a timely, proportionate and targeted way,” Morrison said.
“Our plan will back Australian households with a stimulus payment to boost growth, bolster domestic confidence and consumption, reduce cash flow pressures for businesses and support new investments to lift productivity.”
The package sets aside $6.7 billion to provide around 700,000 small and medium businesses with payments between $2,000 and $25,000 to help pay staff or hire extra workers.
There is also a $1.3 billion provision to help small businesses protect the jobs of 120,000 apprentices and trainees.
It includes $4.8 billion to offer pensioners, social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders a one-off $750 payment.
While welfare advocates have welcomed the package, they say a one-off payment is not enough to ease the suffering of people on income support payments.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said people on Newstart and Youth Allowance in particular needed a permanent payment rise.
“This is an insult to all those people condemned to living below the poverty on Newstart and Youth Allowance,” Siewert said.
“Any additional payment to those living in poverty will get spent but this is simply not enough.”
The Sickness Allowance is set to be scrapped and rolled into the new all-encompassing JobSeeker Payment from 20 March, and Siewert said the government needed to consider delaying the rollout.
“Centrelink’s workload will increase with the COVID-19 response roll out and the stimulus package and I am very worried about people falling through the cracks and not getting timely assistance and support from Centrelink,” she said.
“How can anyone have confidence in Centrelink’s processes to deal with more sick people?”