PM needs to act urgently to deliver minimum income floor for all affected by lockdowns and ongoing pandemic: people desperate and being left behind

ACOSS is calling on the Federal Government to fix COVID income supports including by immediately adding an urgent top-up to the COVID disaster recovery payment.

The urgent top-up to the Disaster Payment can be delivered immediately and would apply to everyone affected by lockdowns, including people trying to get paid work on JobSeeker & other income support payments, and people who have lost any amount of paid work due to lockdowns or border closures. It would make sure everyone affected by the pandemic, including people on temporary visas have enough income to cover the basics and keep a roof over head.

Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“We are in 2020 conditions and the Federal Government needs to act as it did last year, to make sure people can cover the basics and stay safe.

“We need to urgently deliver an income floor to ensure everyone affected by the pandemic has an income above the poverty line.

“An urgent fix to the Disaster Payment can be done immediately. We also need a permanent increase to JobSeeker and other income support payments to bring them above the poverty line. JobKeeper Payments should also be reinstated where employers are affected by longer lockdowns.

“Right now we have almost 400,000 people locked down in Greater Sydney trying to survive on income support payments that are below the poverty line, with many unable to get paid work. We need to lift people out of poverty so that they can afford what they need to stay safe, including keeping a roof over their head.

“It is not correct to say that people can afford to get through this time round. Whilst some on higher incomes have accumulated savings, many others on lower incomes and in marginal paid work have virtually nothing behind them, with us now over 18 months into this pandemic. In addition, over that period, housing and rent costs have gone through the roof. People need an adequate income floor to be able to keep their roof over head. You can’t stay home if you can’t afford to keep your home. This situation is dire and needs urgent action.

“Just as vaccination and effective quarantine are crucial to tackling COVID, so too is ensuring that people have enough to cover the basics. This will also provide stimulus for the economy to weather extended lockdowns,” Dr Goldie said.

The top-up to the COVID disaster recovery payment would apply to:
• Everyone on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance or other income support payments in areas affected by lockdowns, who are currently ineligible for the COVID Disaster Payment.
• People on low or modest incomes who have lost any amount of paid work due to lockdowns or border closures, whether or not they are still employed

Under ACOSS’ proposal:
• The payment would be extended to people who have lost earnings but are still employed and remove barriers to access such as the Liquid Assets test and restrictions applying to temporary migrants
• Allow people on income support payments to access an urgent top-up disaster recovery payment so their payment would be equivalent to $475 per week for singles or $718 per week for couples – this is the same as the pension rate and just above the poverty line. Partnered people would receive at least $359 per week each. Family Tax Benefits would be available to those with children.

Other actions the Federal Government must immediately adopt as soon as Parliament sits:
• Increase JobSeeker and related payments above the poverty line
• Waive the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period
• Waive the Liquid Assets Waiting Test
• Abolish the $10,000 liquid assets test for disaster payments
• Reinstate JobKeeper payments for people affected by longer lockdowns.