The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today expressed concern over the cessation of the ACT COVID-19 disaster payment from tomorrow, Friday 5 November.
The disaster payment is a lump-sum payment up to $750 per week for people who have lost work and income due to an ACT COVID-19 public health order.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “The disaster payment has been a welcome financial support for those that have experienced a reduction in hours or been unable to work due to quarantine orders or boarder restrictions.
“Since the ACT lockdown commenced, over 65,000 people have received at least one disaster payment which has increased from 20,000 people when the support initially opened on 20 August 2021.
“The cessation of the COVID disaster payment would mean that any of the 65,000 Canberrans who have not regained employment or income would need to rely on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance for income support as they seek to re-enter the workforce,” Dr Campbell said.
The JobSeeker payment is less than half of the COVID-19 disaster payment, at around $320 per week which is almost $140 per week below the poverty line of $457 for a single adult. The lockdown evidenced a 7.5% increase in the number of people in the ACT receiving JobSeeker or Youth Allowance while looking for work.
Dr Campbell continued: “This is almost 9,500 Canberrans who are receiving these payments.
“The rise in the number of Canberrans relying on JobSeeker and Youth Allowance payments means a rise in poverty in the ACT.
“Last year when the Federal Government introduced the Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per week for JobSeeker and Youth Allowance recipients, we saw the poverty rate plummet despite the fact the number of Canberrans receiving these payments more than doubled.
“The subsequent removal of the supplement saw our poverty rate rise to a level above what it was before COVID, with an estimated 38,000 people including 9,000 children living in poverty.
“The increased demand for these payments demonstrates a clear need for the Federal Government to raise the rates of Jobseeker and similar payments to be above the poverty line so that people can afford to keep a roof over their head, food on the table and their electricity on.”
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.
For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.