The Federal and NSW State Governments have unveiled a new COVID-19 rescue package that increases lockdown payments to $375 and $600 – but many are frustrated about the exclusion of unemployed, insecure Aussies, and those on welfare payments.
The new higher rates of the COVID-19 Disaster Payments will kick in from week four of a lockdown, and signal an increase from the initially-announced $325 and $500 for those who have lost less than 20 hours of work and more than 20 hours of work respectively.
The payments have also been made state-wide, across NSW, rather than limited to only people who lived in an officially defined COVID-19 hotspot.
These COVID-19 Disaster payments – which individuals were being asked to re-apply for, for every week of lockdown – will now be issued automatically.
NSW Dominic Perrottet also announced more support for businesses, including increased grants of $1,500 to $10,000 per week depending on the drop to turnover.
However, the support package has drawn criticism from unions as not going far enough to stem the financial and economic damage already suffered by businesses during lockdown.
Australian Council of Trade Unions national secretary Sally McManus slammed the Prime Minister for refusing to heed calls to reinstate JobKeeper.
“JobKeeper gave people job security and just enough support to get through. We know it works,” she said.
The package announced today represented a “radical cut” to the support offered last year, she added. At its highest rate, JobKeeper was $1,500 per fortnight per worker, or $750 a week, and required businesses to keep their workers employed.
“Weekly payments have been slashed by up to $150 per week, there is no guarantee jobs will be kept and those who have already lost their jobs will get nothing,” McManus said.
“Instead of guaranteeing workers weekly pay and a connection to their jobs, workers now have to navigate Centrelink and hope their employers keep them on.”
Welfare recipients excluded from new COVID package
Part of the eligibility criteria of receiving the lockdown payments is that the individual cannot be receiving any other income support from the government.
This means that those on JobSeeker or any other welfare payment are immediately excluded from accessing the $325, $375, $500 or $600 payments.
The JobSeeker rate for a single person with no children is currently $620.80 a fortnight.
The support package means that who are employed, but have been unable to work from lockdown, are receiving $600 a week while those on JobSeeker get little over half of that amount.
This fact was noted and roundly criticised on Twitter, with one accusing the package of asking the “unemployed and precarious casuals to simply suck it up and starve”.
Another replied: “It's such hot bullshit that anyone on job seeker can't get the disaster relief payment.”
Political activist group GetUp said the package “shortchanges hundreds of thousands of unemployed and insecure workers who won't be eligible for it”.
“Bring back the $550 COVID Supplement.”
Echoing these sentiments, another pointed out that those on welfare were being left behind.
“These payments specifically exclude anyone on income support and are completely useless as a result for many precarious workers, let alone the unemployed,” said a Twitter user.
Political author and academic Tim Dunlop called for a broad overhaul of the approach to support payments.
Covid isn't going away for a long time, whatever happens in Sydney over the next few months, whatever happens with vaccines. We have to completely change our approach to support payments, 'mutual obligations' & the like so people forced into lockdown are protected from the start
— timdunlop (@timdunlop) July 11, 2021
More to come.