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Calls To Widen Net For Covid Payments In Australia

There are calls to overhaul the Morrison government’s Covid disaster payment amid growing case numbers across the country.

SYDNEY — Social services groups want the federal government to plug gaps in its Covid disaster payment system as fresh outbreaks again wreak havoc on state and territory borders.

People are eligible for up to AU$500 ($375.45) a week if they’re in a nationally recognized hotspot for more than seven days and cannot work.

But they aren’t eligible if they’re also on the dole or other income support, or if they’re receiving a separate federal disaster leave payment that also excludes people on JobSeeker.

The Australian Council of Social Service on June 28 urged the Morrison government to plug gaps in its $500-a-week ($375.45-a-week) payment as states and territories again slammed their borders shut.

Australian Council of Social Service tweeted “Australian Council of Social Service is calling on the Federal Govt to urgently fix gaps in Covid Australia Disaster Payment, as part of a national plan to protect jobs & incomes that increase JobSeeker and reinstates JobKeeper for affected industries & regions.”

People are eligible for up to $500 a week if they’re in a nationally-recognised hotspot for more than seven days and cannot work. (Morgan Sette/AAP Image)

“Getting by on the paltry rate of JobSeeker is impossible at the best of times, let alone in a lockdown, when there are additional costs for people to stay safe. The reality is, it is easier to protect yourself and others from Covid when you have a safe roof overhead,” said Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie.

“In addition to fixing the Covid Disaster Payment, we urgently need JobSeeker and Youth Allowance to be increased above the poverty line – this is about basic human decency, as well as public health and economic stimulus.

Goldie also said that people shouldn’t have to wait a week to get the money or be excluded because they’re getting JobSeeker.

“Getting by on the paltry rate of JobSeeker is impossible at the best of times, let alone in a lockdown,” Goldie said.

For people who would usually work fewer than 20 hours a week, the disaster payment drops to AU$325 ($244.08).

Cassandra Goldie is urging the government to extend lockdown payments to more people in need.
Cassandra Goldie is urging the government to extend lockdown payments to more people in need. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image)

It’s separate from the government’s $1500 ($1,126.52) payment for people forced to quarantine for two weeks, which comes with its own caveats.

National cabinet is expected to meet later on June 28 to canvas the growing Covid crisis and issues including disaster leave.

States and territories have all but closed themselves off to each other as New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia record new cases.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said lockdowns and restrictions were the fault of the Morrison government and it should look after people who couldn’t work as a result.

Albanese tweeted “Since I posted this yesterday, two more states have gone into lockdown. We’re on the brink of a national outbreak. It’s because we have a failure of national leadership. The Prime Minister had two jobs this year. Fix the vaccine rollout, and build safe quarantine. He’s failed both.”

Newly appointed Emergency Management Minister Bridget McKenzie was contacted for comment.

(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Praveen Pramod Tewari)

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