The Australian Government has today announced a new temporary COVID Disaster Payment for workers who have had their hours of work and income significantly affected due to state lockdowns.

The rapid support will be paid weekly to those workers who reside or work in a Commonwealth declared hotspot and are therefore unable to attend work and earn an income as a result of state imposed health restrictions, which last for greater than one week.

This would mean Victorian workers who need to stay at home during the state’s latest outbreak are able to get financial support.

Eligible recipients will receive up to $500 per week for losing 20 hours or more of work, and $325 per week for losing under 20 hours. They must not have liquid assets of more than $10,000.

The payment will be made in respect of the second and any subsequent weeks of restrictions.

This support will be available for Australian citizens and permanent residents and eligible working visa holders. Individuals who are already receiving income support payments, business support payments, or the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment will not be eligible for this new payment. To qualify, people will need to have exhausted any leave entitlements (other than annual leave) or other special pandemic leave.

The payment will complement existing payments including the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.

ACOSS Calls for Plan to Protect Incomes in Lockdowns

Earlier, on Wednesday 2 Jun, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) called for the Federal Government to bring a plan to protect jobs and incomes in lockdowns to this week’s National Cabinet meeting. It should include disaster recovery payments like those paid to people affected by bushfires, targeted reintroduction of JobKeeper payments, and lifting JobSeeker to above poverty levels.

ACOSS proposal includes:

  1. Immediate pandemic disaster recovery payments to people in regions and industries affected by lockdowns who have lost paid work. The one-off Disaster Recovery Payment is currently $1,000 per adult and $400 per child. ACOSS called for these payments to be increased to $3,000 and $1,000 respectively. They would be paid to people who have lost income due to lockdowns, in affected industries and regions specified by agreement between the Australian and relevant State or Territory governments.
  2. A decent income support safety net. JobSeeker unemployed payments should be increased above poverty levels – to at least $65 a day so that people would have a decent income support safety net until they’re able to find another job. Ongoing Disaster Recovery Allowances would be paid at the same rate to people not eligible for JobSeeker and other income support payments (for example, due to their partner’s income), for the duration of the lockdown.
  3. Reinstate JobKeeper Payment to help people keep their jobs during extended lockdowns. ACOSS has consistently argued that JobKeeper payments be retained to assist people employed in industries and regions that are still adversely affected by lockdowns or border closures, at rates of $750 per week for full-time employees and $375 per week for part-time employees. As with the disaster relief payments, JobKeeper would be paid to people in affected industries and regions specified by agreement between the Australian and relevant State or Territory governments.

ACOSS chief executive officer Dr Cassandra Goldie said in a press release:

Just as the Federal Government provides disaster recovery payments to people who have been the victims of bushfire or flood, it should provide pandemic recovery income support, including a pandemic disaster-recovery payment, for people who have lost paid work.

There’s no question that lock downs, while necessary to protect health, have been disasters for people who’ve lost paid work. This plan would ensure payments are fast-tracked to people who need them.

At this week’s National Cabinet meeting, the Federal Government and states should put together a jobs and income support plan to deal with sudden lockdowns.

The plan should bring together a one-off Pandemic Disaster Recovery Payment, a lifting of JobSeeker to above the poverty line (at least $65 per day) and a reinstated JobKeeper Payment during extended lockdowns to ensure decent, timely income support for all who need it.

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