Disaster payments for Australians in lockdown will be scaled back in a plan announced by the Commonwealth Government yesterday when a state or territory reaches its vaccination targets.

Under the plan, the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will stop renewing automatically when a state or territory reaches 70 per cent full vaccination of its population (16 years and older). Individuals will have to reapply each week that a Commonwealth Hotspot remains in place to confirm their eligibility.

When a state or territory reaches 80 per cent full vaccination, the temporary payment will step down over a period of two weeks before ending.

In the first week there will be a flat payment of $450 for those who have lost more than 8 hours of work, while those on income support will receive $100. In the second week, the payment will be brought into line with JobSeeker at $320 for those who have lost more than 8 hours of work, while the payment will end for those on income support.

For those who haven’t already returned to the workforce following the end of the temporary payment as the economy opens up, the social security system will support eligible individuals back into work.

Currently, eligible recipients are receiving $750 per week if they lost over 20 hours of work, $450 per week if they lost between 8 and 20 hours and $200 per week for those on income support payments who lost over 8 hours of work. The payment has supported around 2 million Australians with over $9 billion in payments made since it was announced in June this year.

The Government has also confirmed it would leave in place the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment until 30 June 2022.

ACOSS condemns the removal of disaster payments

Meanwhile, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has condemned the Commonwealth Government’s decision to remove COVID Disaster Payments without increasing unemployment payments, and it called on the Government to lift base rates of JobSeeker and related income supports to at least $67 a day when Parliament returns.

ACOSS is also concerned that ending income supports will put communities at risk, and urged the Commonwealth Government and National Cabinet to guarantee that they won’t support lifting of restrictions until safe vaccination rates have been achieved for people most at risk, including people on low incomes, people with disability and First Nations communities.

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