Morrison offers temporary support for people impacted by ‘state imposed health restrictions’

By Melissa Coade

Friday June 4, 2021

melbourne-vaccination-lockdown
The age range to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine is revised to ‘everyone’. (AAP Image/Luis Ascui)

The federal government has announced it will offer ‘rapid support’ payments on a weekly basis to workers affected by state public health order decisions.

In a partial response to calls for more federal assistance for those who are suffering financially from Victoria’s extended lockdown, the prime minister fronted a press conference on Thursday afternoon to announce a temporary disaster payment would be made available.

He called on eligible Victorians in need to lodge their application for the payment via Services Australia from 8 May or call 180 22 66.

“We know that Victoria more than anywhere has suffered greater than any other part of the country, that is a simple fact. And they’re going through that even again now,” Scott Morrison said. 

“That is a decision that governments honestly have to make and we respect those decisions.

“Each of us, commonwealth, state governments, territory governments, all have to make those calls – doing it on the best possible advice and the judgment of those that are making them.”

The prime minister said that any Australian whose hours of work or income was significantly affected due to state lockdowns could receive a temporary COVID-19 disaster payment.

Under the temporary scheme, recipients will receive up to $500 per week for losing 20 hours or more of work, and $325 per week for losing under 20 hours. 

“What is important is that we ensure that the decisions that are made are commensurate with the risks that are faced to avoid any unnecessary hardship on Australians and that there is a balance of those risks assessed so that the harm we seek to prevent is not exceeded by the harm that is imposed by the various measures that could be put in place,” Morrison said. 

Workers who are able to access leave (other than annual leave) from their employers will not qualify for the federal payment. 

Any person currently receiving JobSeeker payments or other welfare benefits, including business support payments or the pandemic leave disaster payment will also be ineligible. Recipients also must have liquid assets valued at $10,000 or under. 

“We are talking about somebody getting through the next week, who would ordinarily be in an economic situation where every dollar counts,” Morrison said.

“Where those have independent means of supporting themselves for a week then I think they would agree that reaching out for commonwealth taxpayer funded assistance is not something they would consider reasonable for such a short period of time.”

The federal supplement is being offered to eligible people from the second week of a lockdown and any subsequent weeks of restrictions after that. 

“The first seven days, they are matters entirely for state and territory governments, as they wish to provide support,” Morrison said.

Australian citizens, permanent residents and eligible working visa holders over 17 years will be able to claim the payment.

COVID disaster payment recipients will also need to either live or work in areas deemed to be a hotspot by the Chief Medical Officer.

“The commonwealth’s decision to provide that support will be based on the medical advice received by the Chief Medical Officer of the commonwealth,” Morrison said. 

“Where a commonwealth hotspot is no longer applied, then the payment ceases.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and emergency management minister David Littleproud joined the PM to make the announcement in Canberra. 

Morrison explained that the scheme would draw from the disaster recovery payment framework and that he would be discussing at a National Cabinet meeting on Friday how the federal and state governments would jointly shoulder the costs of such support payments moving forward.

What I put to [Victoria’s] Acting Premier (James Merlino) last night was that we should split 50-50 both payments. Go 50-50 on household and go 50-50 on business,” Morrison said.

“Alternatively, the states can agree that in these circumstances they will always provide the business support and we will always provide the household support. Either way, we will work it out.”

“What matters is that businesses get the support they need and households get the support they need and the politicians don’t need to have a discussion in public about how that is going to get done,” he added. 

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