COVID disaster payment will provide much-needed support, but excludes many struggling

3 June 2021

While the Government’s temporary COVID disaster payment will provide much-needed support for many people who have lost paid work as a result of the lockdown, a real plan to protect jobs and incomes would have included lifting JobSeeker and a targeted re-introduction of JobKeeper.

Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“We’re pleased the Government has recognised the need for fast-tracked payments in lockdowns, however, we reiterate our call for a national plan to protect jobs and incomes that increases JobSeeker and includes a targeted JobKeeper payment, in addition to disaster payments,” Dr Goldie said.

Today’s announcement provides payments of $500 or $325 per week, after the first seven days of a lockdown, for people who have lost paid work due to the lockdown. It does not apply to people on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance, which is a major concern. The existing disaster recovery payment provided after natural disasters is $1,000 per adult and an extra $400 per child as a one-off payment and those amounts have not increased at all since 2006. ACOSS has been calling for this to be increased to $3,000 and $1000 per child.

“We’re worried that people who currently receive JobSeeker or Youth Allowance don’t get support from what’s been announced today, despite these payments being just $44 a day (JobSeeker) or $36 per day (Youth Allowance). We’re also keen to get an assurance that people on temporary visas and people seeking asylum will be supported.

“The $325 per week payment will be difficult for people to get by on – it’s only slightly higher than the JobSeeker rate and well below what we believe the JobSeeker rate should be increased to.

“Government must ensure the application process is straight-forward and that payments are delivered rapidly to people in need.

“While the payments announced today will provide much-needed support for many people who have lost paid work as a result of the lockdown, we need to also see action on increasing the JobSeeker payment and re-introducing a targeted JobKeeper,” Dr Goldie said.

The plan ACOSS has been calling for includes:

1. Immediate pandemic disaster recovery payments to people in regions and industries affected by lockdowns who have lost paid work.

The one-off Disaster Recovery Payment is $1,000 per adult and $400 per child. ACOSS is calling for these payments to be increased to $3,000 and $1,000 respectively. They would be paid to people who have lost income due to lockdowns, in affected industries and regions specified by agreement between the Australian and relevant State or Territory governments.

2. A decent income support safety net

JobSeeker must be increased above poverty levels – to at least $65 a day so that people have a decent income support safety net until they’re able to find another job. Ongoing Disaster Recovery Allowances would be paid at the same rate to people not eligible for JobSeeker and other income support payments (for example, due to their partner’s income), for the duration of the lockdown.

3. Reinstate JobKeeper Payment to help people keep their jobs during extended lockdowns.

We have consistently argued that JobKeeper payments be retained to assist people employed in industries and regions that are still adversely affected by lockdowns or border closures, at rates of $750pw for fulltime employees and $375pw for part-time employees. As with the disaster relief payments, JobKeeper would be paid to people in affected industries and regions specified by agreement between the Australian and relevant State or Territory governments.

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