Victorian workers, help is on the way.
Earlier this week, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) called for the Morrison Government to consider offering $1,000 disaster payments to Victorians who have lost all of their paid work as a result of lockdowns.
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg agreed, telling the media yesterday that there had been overnight discussions following a second plea from the Victorian government for the federal government to step in and help.
“We made a decision that with the one-week lockdown that support from the federal government would not be required… but now that the lockdown has been extended, we’re considering our options,” he said according to Sky News.
“Our measures are always based on a set of principles and we set out those principles early on in this pandemic, namely that our support would temporary, it would be targeted, it would be measured, it would be using existing systems.
“Those principles guided us very well from the start of the pandemic and will continue to guide us for future support packages.”
It has now been announced that today, the national cabinet will formalise a new emergency payment for workers who have lost income due to the lockdowns. Now that JobKeeper has ended, there has been a complete lack of support for casual workers, so this news comes as a relief to many.
The emergency lockdown payment plan comes with strict conditions. The payments will be $500 a week for people who normally work more than 20 hours a week and $325 a week for people who normally do less than 20 hours.
You will only be eligible for the emergency lockdown payment, if you have less than $10,000 in liquid assets, with the government considering cash in these assets.
The payment cannot be combined with other welfare or coronavirus support payments from the federal government, such as the JobSeeker payments, and will only go to people who are 17 years old and above, who are Australian citizens, residents or visa holders with a right to work here.
It is also only available for areas considered a national hotspot. This means that regional Victoria, who have woken up to eased restrictions this morning, won’t be eligible for the payment.
Although there was already a disaster relief payment, it’s only available if you’re forced to quarantine, and as a result, can’t work, not simply for lockdowns.
The reality is that hundreds of thousands of casual workers in Melbourne face another week without pay, due to the necessary extension of lockdown. For anyone that works in retail, hospitality, gyms, hairdressers and beauty salons, their businesses have been forced to close — with restrictions remaining in place for at least another seven days.
Although some businesses — such as hospitality venues — are able to continue operating on a takeaway basis, there are substantially fewer hours to fill, and fewer employees needed on the ground.
Frydenberg alluded that a decision to extend lockdown support would not be localised and instead involve a broader policy shift.
“What we need to think about, obviously given the pandemic is still with us, is how we approach this on a national basis,” he said according to The New Daily.
“It’s not about Victoria, Western Australia or individual cases. We will stick to our principles.”
Lockdown-hit Victorian workers are able to apply for JobSeeker payments, without the usual wait period and mutual obligation requirements, however, this is not a long-term solution.
The Treasurer was adamant that Victoria has the capacity to respond to its initial one-week lockdown, but now that it’s being extended for another week across Melbourne, he’s considering a disaster and emergency-style payment scheme.
“There are options that we are considering and that is one of many that we have looked at,” Frydenberg told ABC radio on Thursday. “There is a need in Victoria for continued support.”
Given this, there is necessary pressure mounting on the federal government to financially support Victoria, and we couldn’t agree more.
An outbreak of the Indian variant of COVID-19 triggered an initial seven-day “circuit-breaker” lockdown in Melbourne and greater Victoria, which has now been extended for another week after reaching 60 new active cases on Wednesday.