Home Australia COVID-19 support payments increased for Greater Sydney amid likely protracted lockdown

COVID-19 support payments increased for Greater Sydney amid likely protracted lockdown

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced an increase to the emergency disaster payment from $325 to $375 for people who have lost up to 20 hours of work, and from $500 to $600 for people who have lost more than 20 hours of work due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney.

Mr Morrison also announced a jointly funded payment of between $1,500 and $10,000 a week to businesses that could demonstrate a 30 per cent decline in turnover.

The payment will be contingent on companies maintaining their current staffing levels, and will be paid to a maximum of 40 per cent of a business’s payroll.

The new payment will cost half a billion dollars a week, which will be funded equally by the NSW government and the Commonwealth.

It is expected to apply to businesses employing a total of 3 million workers in NSW.

Mr Morrison said the likely protracted lockdown in Sydney required a new response.

“It is in the national interest that we now put in place a different set of arrangements with the states and territories,” he said.

“That will first be put in place here in New South Wales.”

The Prime Minister said these support packages would be available to any state or territory that experienced an extended lockdown and they would apply from the fourth week of a lockdown.

From Sunday, emergency payments will also be made available to people outside a Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 hotspot if they meet the criteria for the payment, which will be covered by the NSW Government.

In addition, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said, businesses with a turnover of between $30,000 and $75,000 would be able to claim a $1,500 fortnightly payment throughout the lockdown if they had reduced turnover.

The NSW government has also reinstated an eviction moratorium for tenants who have lost at least a fifth of their work, and is offering rebates to landlords who help ease rental stress on affected tenants.

He said the NSW contribution amounted to $4.1 billion in support and the Commonwealth’s more than $5 billion.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the new payments would give people the confidence to stay at home.

“What this does is give us peace of mind, and a breather for everybody in that when you provide that economic support for individuals and businesses, it gives us the freedom to do what we need on the health side,” Ms Berejiklian said.

The Premier said she would provide an update on the extension of the Sydney lockdown tomorrow.

Among a raft of other support measures announced, the Commonwealth also agreed to spend an extra $17.35 million on increased mental health support through Lifeline, Headspace and Kids Helpline.

Mr Morrison said the funding was being increased to particularly support students in year 12 working towards their higher school certificate (HSC).

“We know this is a tough time for you … and you will get through this,” he said.

“This support is being put in place in particular to help you.”

Reinstatement of JobKeeper avoided in favour of package

The new payments have been offered in lieu of reinstating JobKeeper, a request made by both NSW and Victorian governments as they battled outbreaks, but rejected by the federal government.

National Cabinet had previously agreed that the Commonwealth would provide individual income support, while it would be up to the states to ensure cash flow for businesses in the event of a lockdown.

Victorian Trade Minister Martin Pakula said the additional support from the Commonwealth was welcome, even if it had not been extended to Victoria during their lockdown in May, after JobKeeper ended.

“Federal support will mean that they will go harder and get on top of this more quickly that is good thing for everyone,” Mr Pakula said.

“I just wish the Commonwealth had come to that conclusion sooner, specifically that they would have come to that conclusion when we had our outbreak. I think that would have been preferable but better late than never.”

In a statement, the peak body representing Australian unions said the new payments should be made available from the first week of a lockdown.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said the government was wrong to avoid reintroducing JobKeeper.

“JobKeeper gave people job security and just enough support to get through. We know it works,” Ms McManus said.

“Instead of guaranteeing workers weekly pay and a connection to their jobs, workers now have to navigate Centrelink and hope their employers keep them on.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) also raised concerns for the 400,000 unemployed people in Greater Sydney.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie told Channel 9 those people had little prospect of finding a job while under lockdown, and their welfare benefits should be topped up, as they were last year with the “coronavirus supplement”.

That supplement, which ended in March, added an extra $75 a week to the $310 weekly payment to single people on JobSeeker.

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