Welfare groups condemn move to end COVID disaster payments
29 September 2021 at 5:25 pm
ACOSS says the “snap decision” will hurt those on lowest incomes and is urging the government to lift the rate of JobSeeker
The federal government’s decision to put a stop to COVID disaster payments when vaccine milestones are reached has been labelled “unconscionable” by welfare groups who warn it could push hundreds of thousands more people onto JobSeeker and put communities at risk.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced on Wednesday that the COVID-19 Disaster Payment would be wound back after states and territories hit the 70 per cent vaccination mark.
The payment – which gives $750 a week to people who have lost over 20 hours of work and $450 a week to those who have lost between eight and 20 hours – will stop renewing automatically each week when a state or territory reaches 70 per cent vaccination rate.
It will end two weeks after a state or territory reaches 80 per cent of adults over 16 being fully vaccinated.
But the Australian Council of Social Services has warned that this “snap decision” will hurt those on lowest incomes.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said it was “unconscionable” to use broad vaccination rate data as the mechanism to cut off income support to people without paid work – regardless of whether a lockdown has been lifted or what the actual vaccination rates are for a range of at-risk groups.
“Cutting off disaster support will see many of the 1.7 million people currently receiving disaster payments in NSW, ACT and Victoria end up on the grossly inadequate JobSeeker Payment of $45 a day, which is less than half the $750 per week COVID Disaster Payment,” she said.
“It will leave others with no income at all, including people on temporary visas who are ineligible for JobSeeker and other income support.”
ACOSS once again called on the federal government to lift base rates of JobSeeker and related income supports to at least $67 a day when Parliament returns.
“We know many people are unable to go straight back into paid work after a lockdown, which is what we saw last year. The OECD has told Australia it needs to increase its unemployment payments because they drive people into poverty,” Goldie said.
“People won’t be able to pay their rent, afford food and cover the cost of other essentials. The mental health consequences are serious.”