Another income hit for casual workers – massive cut to Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

18 January 2022

As changes that will cut the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment come into effect today, ACOSS condemns the decision to cut the Payment and urges the Federal Government to instead extend it, to protect people on the lowest incomes who have COVID or are a close contact and must isolate.

From today, people who cannot access paid leave provisions from their employer will now receive a much reduced weekly payment of $450 instead of $750 if they do 19 hrs or less paid work per week. The payment will be removed entirely for people who do less than 8 hours per week.

Applicants will now be means-tested and will have to submit their claim within a 14-day timeframe to be eligible.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“It is appalling that the Federal Government is cutting the only Federal income support payment for people who have COVID when we have record case numbers.

“Not only do people need to deal with the stress of contracting the virus and worry of transmitting it to their loved ones, but many will also now receive less or no income support because of this dreadful penny pinching by the Federal Government.

“We condemn the decision to cut the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment. It should remain at $750 per week for all. It should also be extended to people with the least, who receive income support if they test positive to COVID, must look after a loved one with COVID or are a close contact and must isolate.

“It is wrong that around one in four people on income support are engaged in paid work but they would not qualify for the pandemic leave payment if they contracted Covid and could not go to work.

“ACOSS is calling for the removal of the liquid assets test. People must also be given at least 28 days to claim the payment, not 14. Considering some PCR test results are taking seven days or more, 14 days is grossly inadequate to claim the payment.

“The Federal Government must not walk away from the community now when the pandemic is worsening. Rather than cutting the payment at the height of the pandemic,  we urge the Federal Government to expand it, and increase base rates of income support (including Jobseeker from $45 at least $69 a day) to ensure our safety net meets people’s basic needs.”