COVID-19 Financial Support
The current lockdown is looking to continue for many more weeks and while the NSW state and federal governments have announced support packages for businesses and individuals, thousands are ineligible and the payments just aren't enough.
What is the current situation?
For individuals who have lost work, the federal government has made two payments available through Centrelink for those who are eligible. These payments are the Covid Disaster Payment if you are not on any other commonwealth support payments and have lost income during a lockdown and the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment if you need to quarantine or self isolate for 14 days.
For businesses, the NSW Government have announced a support package of three payments accessed through Service NSW. This package consists of:
- the 2021 Covid-19 Business Grant for businesses, sole traders or not-for-profits who needed to close or experienced a loss in revenue due to the restrictions.
- the 2021 Covid-19 Micro Business Grant for microbusinesses with a turnover between $30,000 and $75,000 impacted by the recent restrictions.
- the Jobsaver payment which is cash flow for businesses, sole traders or not-for-profits to help maintain employment of employees up to 40% of the weekly payroll.
Who is falling between the cracks?
We have heard from hundreds of community members and local businesses that huge numbers of people are falling through the cracks. It is clear that the eligibility criteria is excluding huge portions of the community that are doing it really tough and the rate of payments for those who are eligible is barely enough to cover rent let alone bills, food and other living expenses.
For individuals, the eligibility criteria excludes anyone who is already on a Centrelink payment. We know that the rate of all Centrelink payments including Jobseeker, Austudy and the Disability Support Pension are already below the poverty line and thousands work part time or casual jobs to be able to survive on these payments. We know that income support recipients are losing work as well and the lack of additional support is having a huge impact on students and part time workers.
One of the hundreds of stories which have been shared with our office from those who are excluded from Covid-19 support.
Additionally, thousands of people living in NSW on visas are not eligible for government support. Excluding non-citizens such as international students, refugees and other visa holders puts valued community members in impossible situations where many must choose between breaking the health restrictions or putting food on the table.
We wrote to the Premier and Treasurer on July 15 urging the NSW Government to expand the eligibility for income support to include people on income support payments and non-citiziens.
The business support grants also have strict eligibility criteria which mean that many businesses are left without any support at all. We have been supporting local businesses who have been excluded by the strict guidelines and have advocated to the Treasurer on their behalf.
What is very clear about both the business package and the individual support payments is that they are insufficient to truly support our community through this lockdown. The rate of these payments is so low that it is barely covering rent and it is forcing many to take on enormous debts to survive.
We are calling for the Treasurer to expand the eligibility of the support payments to include anyone on income support payments and non-citizens. We are also calling for greater flexibility with the eligibility for the business grants to ensure no one is left behind.
We have also written to the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation calling for greater protections for renters and while we are pleased that the protections from the last lockdown were reinstated, it is still an issue that thousands of renters will be left with huge rent debts.
Our federal Greens colleagues are calling for the reinstatement of JobKeeper and the Jobseeker Coronavirus supplement to ensure that everyone losing income is adequately supported. We support their calls and will continue to work to support those doing it tough in our community and across NSW.