‘STOPPED’: Major change to COVID-19 $750 payments
People receiving COVID-19 Disaster Payments in NSW and the ACT have been warned that their payments officially stopped on Friday 8 October, as both jurisdictions reached the 70 per cent vaccination threshold.
Services Australia confirmed the automatic payments have "stopped" in an update on Friday, with recipients now required to apply each week to claim the $750 payments.
The ACT hit its 70 per cent fully vaccinated threshold on 8 October, while NSW hit it on 7 October.
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The Federal Government announced the changes to the COVID-19 Disaster Payments in late September.
"These COVID disaster payments, these business support payments have been emergency payments and we can't continue them forever," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said at the time.
"Nor can we continue lockdowns forever. If you look abroad, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States - countries are starting to live with COVID."
Across the Victoria, NSW and ACT lockdowns, around 1.7 million people are claiming the payments.
“People whose income is still affected may still be eligible for the COVID-19 Disaster Payment,” Minister for Government Services Linda Reynolds said in a statement on Thursday.
“Claiming online, through myGov, remains the quickest and easiest way to claim – more than 90 per cent of claims are made online and some claims are processed within hours.”
Most people in Greater Sydney and NSW will have received their last automatic payment at the beginning of the week and will be able to claim from 10 October.
Those in the inner-Sydney suburbs should have received their final automatic payment on 7 October and will be able to claim from 14 October, while those who are receiving Centrelink top-up payments can claim from 18 October.
Critical dates for claiming the COVID-19 Disaster Payments
People in the ACT who have been receiving the payments will have 1-7 October as their last relevant period for automatic payments, while those in Greater Sydney and NSW will have their last relevant period for the automatic payments falling on 3-9 October.
People in Sydney will have their last period for automatic payments from 7-11 October.
And those who received the Centrelink top-up payments will have their last relevant period from 5-11 October.
Payments to fall when states hit 80% vax target
As it stands, people living in lockdown regions also defined as COVID-19 hotspots can claim $450 if they have lost between 8 and 20 hours of work a week.
People who have lost more than 20 hours can claim $750.
However, those payments will reduce further once the state or territory reaches the 80 per cent fully vaccinated threshold.
In the first week after the jurisdiction reaches 80 per cent fully vaccinated, the payment will be a flat rate of $450 for anyone who has lost more than 8 hours of work.
People who are receiving the COVID-19 Centrelink top up payments will see their support halved from $200 to $100.
This will fall to $320 in the second week after the state reaches 80 per cent fully vaccinated.
After that, the payment will phase out entirely.
However, ending the payments altogether without increasing the JobSeeker unemployment payments risks sending recipients into poverty, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) has warned.
“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 $750pw Covid Disaster Payment,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
“It will leave others with no income at all, including people on temporary visas who are ineligible for JobSeeker and other income support.”
She said many people will be unable to return immediately to paid work following a lockdown as restrictions will still remain on many businesses.
“Snap decisions like this hurt people on lowest incomes. People won’t be able to pay their rent, afford food and cover the cost of other essentials. The mental health consequences are serious,” she said.
NSW is expected to hit the 80 per cent threshold around 20 October, while the ACT is expected to hit it around 19 October.
Victoria, which is also experiencing a prolonged lockdown, is expected to hit 70 per cent fully vaccinated around 24 October, and 80 per cent around 6 November.
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