Health funding and help for tenants under latest COVID-19 measures

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday March 30, 2020


The latest measures and funding announced by the federal government in response to the coronavirus pandemic include a $1.1 billion health and safety package and a new government app.

Under the health package, $74 million will go towards supporting mental health, with funding allocated to the government’s digital mental health portal Head to Health, to make it the “single source of authoritative information and guidance on how to maintain good mental health during the coronavirus pandemic and in self-isolation, how to support children and loved ones, and how to access further mental health services and care”.

A further $669m will go towards expanding telehealth, domestic violence support will receive $150m, and $200m will be allocated to a community support package covering emergency and food relief for vulnerable Australians, and other financial counselling and relief schemes.

The federal government has also launched a new Coronavirus Australia app, available through the Apple App Store, Google Play and as a new WhatsApp chatbot.

Over the weekend the National Cabinet  agreed to implement six-month bans on the evictions of people and businesses unable to pay rent due to the financial impacts of COVID-19. The move comes days after Tasmania announced the same decision.

Other measures include a two-person limit — excluding housemates — on indoor and outdoor gatherings, and a ban on playgrounds and outdoor gyms. Those over the age of 70, anyone over 60 with a chronic illness, and Indigenous Australians over 50 have been urged to self-isolate.

On Sunday Defence minister Linda Reynolds announced the Australian Defence Force has deployed teams across Australia to provide logistics support for the state and territory police as they enforce mandatory quarantine and isolation measures.

She said so far around 350 ADF personnel were supporting state and territory authorities.

More than 30 ADF personnel have been deployed to Sydney Airport to support New South Wales police, with at least another 40 supporting the quarantine of six separate hotels.

In Queensland, around a dozen ADF personnel deployed to Brisbane Airport and Cairns Airport, with another dozen at a hotel in Cairns.

Western Australia will receive 50 ADF personnel to quarantine new arrivals, while “a small number” of personnel have already helped move baggage from Fremantle to Perth Airport and Rottnest Island Ferry Terminal.

Reynolds said assistance from the ADF is coordinated through the whole-of-government response to COVID-19, led by Emergency Management Australia.

“The ADF response is being undertaken through the provisions of the Defence Assistance to the Civil Community framework. ADF members have no coercive enforcement powers,” she said.

Further measures to come include a third stimulus package and a JobKeeper allowance of $1,500 a fortnight for full-time workers whose businesses have closed due to the pandemic. Measures for part-time and casual workers have not yet been finalised.

The government’s upcoming third stimulus package will reportedly include another multibillion-dollar bailout of corporate Australia, with an extension on the banks’ six-month deferral of loan ­repayments to 30,000 businesses to bring the overall value of loans for COVID-19 support to $250b.

The 50% loan guarantee offered to small and medium businesses to include big employers will be lifted.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has also moved to block foreign companies from raiding Australian companies by reducing ownership thresholds that trigger government scrutiny to zero.


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