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‘Heroes of the pandemic’ hit by major COVID payment changes

·2-min read
People queue outside Centrelink branch, hands hold Australian $50 notes.
The tiered system of payments was introduced earlier this week. (Sources: Getty)

People who test positive to COVID-19 will need to show they have less than $10,000 available to them and have lost 20 hours of work in order to claim full payments, as the new tiered system comes into effect.

As of Tuesday 18 January, the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment was split into two tiers.

People who have lost more than 20 hours can still claim $750 for every seven days of isolation, while those who have lost between eight and 20 hours can claim $450. People who have lost fewer than eight hours are ineligible for support.

In order to claim the payments, people will now need to prove they have less than $10,000 in liquid assets, or cash.

People will also need to apply within 14 days of entering isolation.

However, people can now use positive rapid antigen tests as proof of infection to access the payments.

The Federal Government announced the changes earlier in January, with Government Services Minister Anne Ruston saying the Government “remains committed” to supporting people who can’t work.

However, unions and social welfare advocates have warned that reducing payments during the current Omicron pandemic is ill-timed.

Australia recorded more than 48,000 new cases of COVID-19, and NSW recorded 46 deaths in 24 hours - the state’s deadliest day of the pandemic yet.

“[Reducing the payments] will place those in low-paid and precarious work in further financial stress as they lose income to isolate when infected or in close contact with someone else with COVID-19,” Australian Council of Social Services chief executive Cassandra Goldie said on Thursday.

“This cut will affect many of the same people lauded as the heroes of the pandemic – essential workers employed casually in health and aged care, supermarkets, hospitality venues and warehouses.

“It will also hurt temporary visa holders, who are entitled to the leave payment and do not qualify for any other federal income support.”

The payments can be claimed by calling 180 22 66, or by navigating through myGov and Centrelink Online.

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