The Federal government has announced a $750 one-off payment to welfare recipients in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
Casual employees who are sick or self-isolating without pay will be also be exempt from the standard one-week waiting period when claiming the Sickness Allowance from Centrelink.
The move has received a mixed reaction from the Australian Council of Social Services, which said the payment will provide welcome short-term relief, but more needed to be done.
ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said welfare recipients were doing it tough, particularly people claiming Newstart, and pensioners who don’t own their home.
“The Government has not targeted today’s package in the way that was needed, with some of these $750 payments going to households who don’t qualify for a pension because they have millions in superannuation assets,” Ms Goldie said.
“While we welcome the waiver of some wait times for social security payments, such as Sickness Allowance, this is not the answer for people unable to work due to coronavirus. We back calls from the ACTU to guarantee at least two weeks paid leave for people prevented from working due to this health crisis,” she said.
Australian Unemployed Workers Union spokesperson Jeremy Poxon said the coronavirus will make it harder for Newstart recipients to attend mutual obligation appointments and could end up being cut off.
“There’s tens of thousands of Australians right now who have to attend work for the dole sites, for example, to justify their receipt of Newstart, plenty of people having to attend training and job agency appointments,” Mr Poxon said.
“There are extended and lengthy and sometimes difficult exemption processes that don’t always work, but sadly there’s also a lack of information being made available by this government.
“People who are sick on Newstart are now basically living in fear and uncertainty that, if they need to self-isolate, they’re worried now that if they do that it might come with some pretty dreadful consequences.”
People who receive unemployment benefits are required at attend appointments with their Jobactive provider and attend Work for the Dole sites; failure to do so without an exemption results in payments being cut off.
Newstart and Sickness Allowance recipients receive about $40 per day and the rate hasn’t increased in real terms since 1994.