The Government Will Scrap Disaster Payments At 80% Double Dose, Even If You’re Still Out Of Work
"Instead of providing support during the Delta wave, the LNP is hell-bent on starving us."
The Federal Government has announced that COVID disaster payment (that is, the financial lifeline keeping 2.16 million Australians afloat right now) will end when states and territories reach 80 percent double vaccination, even if lockdowns continue.
More than $9 billion in disaster relief payments has been dished out since June 2021, but despite the fact that thousands of Australians will still be out of work — or at least working less — at 80 percent double dose, treasurer Josh Frydenberg has pulled the plug on the much-needed support.
In a statement on Wednesday, Frydenberg announced that the payment will stop being automatically renewed at the 70 percent mark (which means you’ll have to reapply every week) and will completely cease two weeks after we hit 80 percent.
“As I have said before we can’t eliminate the virus, we need to learn to live with it in a COVID safe way. This means we must ease restrictions as vaccination rates hit 70-80 percent in accordance with the plan agreed at national cabinet,” said Frydenberg. “As restrictions ease the economy is well-positioned to bounce back. Today’s announcement about the winding down of the COVID disaster payment will provide businesses and households with the certainty they need to plan for the future.”
Now, this is all well and good for a majority of Australians who will be back at work before or at 80 percent double dose. However, it leaves thousands of workers — particularly in hospitality and live entertainment — high and dry once again.
For example, nightclubs — which employ thousands of predominantly young people nationwide — will be unable to open at 80 percent double dose in New South Wales or Victoria. And venues that can open will be operating at significantly reduced capacity (one person per four square metres in Melbourne), which obviously means less staff will be required per shift. Oh, and that doesn’t even begin to factor in Australia’s live entertainment industry, which has been completely left out of the roadmap altogether.
Under the payment, recipients could receive between $200 and $750 per week, depending on exactly how many hours of work they lost. But two weeks after we hit that much-needed 80 percent milestone, this support ceases entirely.
Those still out of work in the 80 percent double dosed world will be left with no other option than to depend on JobSeeker — which requires you to fulfil mutual obligation requirements, even if you will (eventually) have a full-time job to go back to.
“Hell-Bent On Starving Us”
As the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union put it, “this is absolute bullshit.”
“Cutting the COVID Disaster Payment is a one-way ticket to poverty for millions of Australians. Instead of providing support during the Delta wave, the LNP is hell-bent on starving us,” the AUWU said in a newsletter statement.
The Victorian Government — which has faced the worst of the COVID-19 lockdowns — was quick to condemn the decision to end support before all Australians are back at work.
“It’s disappointing that the Commonwealth is moving to end the COVID Disaster Payment which has provided vital income support to many,” a Victorian Government spokesperson told Junkee. “The Disaster Payment is only available to those who have lost work due to public health restrictions – it will naturally taper over time as restrictions are lifted.”
Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam MLC echoed a similar sentiment, asserting that the conclusion of disaster payments will, ironically, be disastrous for young people in these industries.
“With so many young people, hospitality workers and renters already living on the edge, cutting off disaster payments will push many into crisis and homelessness,” Ratnam told Junkee. “This decision makes the re-introduction of a ban on evictions in Victoria all the more urgent. “The Greens have been pushing the state government to protect renters and have already introduced a bill that would ban evictions and put a freeze on rent increases.
“Let’s hope this announcement from the Federal Government adds more pressure on the state government to act urgently.”
Australia is on-track to hit 80 percent double dose by mid-November. Junkee has reached out to Josh Frydenberg’s office for further comment.