Lack of sick leave a coronavirus ‘ticking time bomb’, stimulus payments needed: Greens

The Australian Greens MPs

Greens Leader Adam Bandt MP and Greens Community Services spokesperson Rachel Siewert have called on the government to extend the Disaster Recovery Allowance to those affected by the coronavirus, especially those without sick leave.

The Greens have also called for any government stimulus to be targeted to support low-income Australians, support coronavirus resilience and be a more effective response to the threat of recession.

Lines from Leader of the Australian Greens, Adam Bandt MP:

“The coronavirus has Australia’s economy running a high fever, and whenever our economy falters, people on low incomes always get hit the hardest.

“There are millions of workers without sick leave and unless the government financially supports those affected by coronavirus, they may be forced to come to work to earn money, which in turn could speed up the spread of the disease.

“People without sick leave should know that if they do what the government or the doctor says, they’ll be looked after financially.

“The government also need to be looking at a GFC-style payment to all Australians on low-incomes. This is the best way to build resilience in the community as the coronavirus spreads and will give the best bang for the buck in fighting recession, because the money will get spent on essentials. The government should also be raising Newstart by at least $95 in the May Budget.”

Lines from Australian Greens Community Services Spokesperson, Senator Rachel Siewert:

“It’s people who are on the lowest incomes who are going to be hit the hardest by this virus, and lifting Newstart will not only put money in the pockets of those who are trying to survive, but it will significantly stimulate our economy.”

“Government needs to be making sure it has a hotline in place with Centrelink to ensure anyone who is in isolation can ring, register for these emergency payments, and ensure that if they can’t meet their mutual obligations that they won’t be penalised.”

BACKGROUND:

We must ensure that everyone has access to income should they be required to go into self-isolation or quarantine. No one should have to make a choice between earning the income needed to pay for their essentials and protecting both their own and the communities health.

The Greens are calling for the Disaster Recovery Allowance to be extended to all those on low incomes required to self-isolate or go into quarantine. This would mean that if you are on a casual contract, or are self-employed, or otherwise don’t have access to either paid sick leave or an income support payment, you will be eligible to receive up to 13 weeks of the allowance, paid at the rate of Newstart.

Eligibility for the first 14 days of payment should be based on a COVID-19 diagnosis or those required to remain in self-isolation or quarantine due to government policy (ie. returning from an identified country), combined with demonstrated loss of income. Those who require longer than 14 days would likely also require further medical attention, and therefore payments beyond the first two weeks will require subsequent medical evidence.

This would be coupled with a nation-wide suspension of all mutual obligation requirements for Newstart, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment recipients. Mutual obligation requirements don’t have a place in our social security system. Forcing people to undertake job searches and meet with their job service provider during the coronavirus outbreak threatens an individual’s health and that of the broader community.

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