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$500 payments announced for Victorians

·4-min read
Pictured: People exercise in Melbourne with masks on, Scott Morrison, Australian cash.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a new disaster payment. (Images: Getty).

Victorian workers affected by the snap COVID lockdown will be eligible for $500 payments following heavy lobbying from the state government.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the scheme on Thursday afternoon, describing the support as temporary COVID disaster payments.

Under the proposal, the Federal Government will provide support for areas defined as regional hotspots by the chief medical officer. 

The payments would be paid jointly by the state and Federal Government, with National Cabinet due to decide the exact split of the support. 

$500 payments to flow 7 days after region declared hotspot

The $500 payments will be available for those who would normally work at least 20 hours a week. Those who normally work less than 20 hours a week will be eligible for $325 payments.

“The person will not be required to use annual leave but must have insufficient other appropriate leave entitlements, including special pandemic sick leave and have exhausted those entitlements,” Morrison said.

“So you don't have to get into your annual leave but if your employer is already providing your lease for these types of purposes, then it is reasonable that people would use those in these circumstances.”

The payments will be made available seven days after the hotspot enters lockdown. 

The Federal Department of Health defines a hotspot as a metropolitan area where the rolling three-day average is 10 locally acquired cases a day, or any area where there is the potential for wide community exposure to a highly transmissible variation. 

A hotspot can also be declared for a rural or regional area with a rolling three-day average of three locally acquired cases per day.

Who is ineligible for the payment?

People who receive JobSeeker or other income support will not be eligible for the payment. The JobSeeker unemployment payment is currently set at $310.40 a week for a single person with no children.

Those with more than $10,000 in savings will also not be eligible for the payments. 

"We are talking about somebody getting through the next week. Who would normally be in an economic situation where every dollar counts," Morrison said. 

"Where those have independent means of supporting themselves for a week then I think they would agree that reaching out for Commonwealth taxpayer funded assistance is not something they would consider reasonable for such a short period of time."

How to access the payments

Victorians will be able to apply for the support from Tuesday through Services Australia, Morrison said, with the money directed to affected workers' bank accounts.

Those who access the payment must also be prepared for retrospective compliance activity, he added. 

Frydenberg said the lockdown is a "painful reminder" that the pandemic has not ended. 

The Government has not yet costed the scheme, but Frydenberg said it will cost around $50 million per 100,000 casuals per week.

"The estimate is [there are] around a half million casuals in the metropolitan Melbourne area, and obviously bearing in mind that this relates to the Commonwealth definition of a hot spot, so treasury and finance are working the numbers through, but as the prime minister has indicated, it is a demand driven program," he added.

Calls for aid amid Victoria outbreak

It comes as Victoria records three new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Thursday, all close contacts of existing infections.

The state entered lockdown on Thursday 27 May, with residents allowed only to exit their homes for exercise, essential work, to provide care, go to the supermarket or receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

While regional Victoria has been given the green light to remove most lockdown restrictions, Greater Melbourne will remain in lockdown until 10 June, prompting concerns from the state government, unions and welfare groups.

Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino this week requested the Government extend the JobKeeper subsidies to those affected by the state lockdowns. 

"The ball is in the Federal Government's court," he said.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has also called for the Government to reinstate JobKeeper "where it is still needed". 

"While the vaccine rollout continues to flounder there will be thousands of businesses and millions of workers who continue to need support," ACTU President Michele O'Neil said. 

The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) also called for the Government to increase the one-off Disaster Recovery Payment from $1,000 to $3,000 per adult. 

“We know that many people already have massive accumulated debts, housing and rent prices are going up, and charities are unable to cope with dramatic increases in demand," ACOSS senior advisor, social security, Charmaine Crowe said.

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