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COVID cash to increase to $600: reports

·3-min read
Australian $50 notes. People walking down deserted street during Sydney's lockdown.
Individuals will receive a payment boost as early as Tuesday. (Images: Getty).

New South Wales residents receiving COVID-19 support will see their payments increase by between $50 and $100, according to reports.

It comes as the state records 89 new cases of COVID-19, with the virus taking seed in Sydney’s south-west and eastern suburbs.

Payments will increase to $600 from $500 for workers who have lost more than 20 hours of work and to $375 from $325 for those working fewer than 20 hours, according to reports.

It’s expected the NSW state government will also announce financial support for people waiting for COVID-19 test results, to encourage workers with symptoms to stay at home.

Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory already have these supports in place.

“Even if you regard yourself as an essential worker, especially in the Fairfield local government area, do not leave home if you have symptoms,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Monday.

“We are seeing very, very key workers, unfortunately, leave the home with symptoms or not knowingly spreading the virus. We would prefer you stayed at home unless you absolutely have to leave the house.”

Details of the payments are expected to be released as early as Tuesday.

Flaw in payments leaves unemployed and partially employed out cold

Unions and social welfare groups have also called for a significantly stronger safety net, with Australian Council of Social Services CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie warning loopholes in the current scheme means poverty is a real danger for many residents.

Under the present rules, those who receive the COVID-19 payments can’t also receive JobSeeker or other welfare payments.

"People who are locked out of paid work, for example, people who were getting a bit of social security and also getting part-time casual work, currently they're excluded from that disaster recovery payment, and so, the government needs to deliver an income support package which keeps everybody's head at least above that poverty line," she told Today.

“There's about 400,000 people, we estimate, in that Greater Sydney lockdown area who are on JobSeeker.”

Single JobSeeker recipients currently receive $310 a week, with ACOSS arguing Australians receiving the benefit should be eligible for “top-up” disaster recovery payments taking it to $475 - in line with the pension rate and above the poverty line.

Unions call for JobKeeper 2.0

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) also blasted the current support as “grossly inadequate”.

It said the scheme was lacking as it did not encourage employers to retain staff, as JobKeeper did.

It’s calling for fortnightly payments of at least $1,500 for all workers, in line with the first iteration of JobKeeper.

“Workers need financial support through the lockdown and a job to return to when the lockdown is over. JobKeeper 2.0 would provide this. The vast majority of permanently employed workers who were stood down in 2020 have now exhausted all of their paid leave. This means in 2021 they have nothing to fill the gap between support payments and their normal wages,” ACTU secretary Sally McManus said.

“Casual and other insecure workers in Sydney are currently living in limbo with no end in sight to the lockdown, no financial stability and no certainty that their jobs will still be there when the lockdown ends. Unlike the current emergency payments JobKeeper 2.0 would attach workers to employment and give them financial security.”

The state and Federal Governments are reportedly preparing a $1.4 billion business support package.

It’s expected the new package will include some form of support like JobKeeper, with businesses to receive cash to cover costs and wages provided no worker loses their job.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, that support will be between $10,000 and $20,000 for small to medium businesses.

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