Government-funded relief payments are available for temporary visa holders and asylum seekers experiencing extreme hardship during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Temporary visa holders were left out of the federal government’s JobKeeper program last year. But this year, COVID-19 Disaster payments are available to some eligible temporary visa holders who have lost income due to health orders.
However, many of those not covered by this safety net are facing a range of difficulties.
Red Cross Australia is assisting people facing extreme hardship during the COVID-19 lockdowns who cannot access government payments.
Emergency financial support
The organisation provides emergency relief to temporary visa holders, asylum seekers and those with uncertain visa status.
Individuals and families can access $200 to $400 in one-off assistance to meet their immediate needs, like food and medicines.
“They are not huge amounts, but they are certainly enough to address needs in the short term, like food or medicine or contribution to the rent or utilities,” says Vicki Mau, Red Cross Australia’s Head of Migration programs.
An application can be made at redcross.org.au/emergencyrelief. You would need to supply your visa details bank statement as evidence of financial hardship.
We provide a transfer of cash in your bank account so that you can buy what you need in your local community, and you don’t need to travel to a particular supermarket or a particular provider to get that.
Ms Mau says over 160,000 people have so far received emergency financial support through Red Cross Australia.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has provided $160 million in additional funding to nearly 200 charities and community groups to deliver emergency support. The government has allocated a further $40 million if the need arises.
The support includes food parcels or vouchers, transport, chemist vouchers, or help with rent and utilities. It also includes referrals to services that address the underlying causes of the financial crisis.
Food relief program
Settlement Services International provides financial and food relief to asylum seekers in and around Sydney.
SSI volunteers are out in the community on Tuesdays and Thursdays to deliver care packages to those who request help.
“It’s got food staples in there and just your basic needs – milk and bread – those sort of things. We have also got pre-prepared meals in partnership with Oz Harvest and Colombo Social as well,” says Margaret Brickwood, SSI’s manager or Asylum Seeker Services.
She says there's an increase of 50 to a hundred per cent in demand for support compared to last year. However, many are finding it difficult to receive help this time.
“Because of the whole five-kilometre radius rule thing, people within the community are not able to travel outside of the local zone to be able to get food. If you are going to St Vincent Apollo looking for that emergency relief support, then that’s often not as close to home – there’s often not one of those within the five-kilometre radius,” she says.
SSI also provides financial assistance to those temporary visa holders and asylum seekers who can’t access other government payments. Ms Brickwood says they can also help people apply for the government’s COVID disaster payment.
“It can be very confusing for asylum seekers, and we have assisted a lot of them with understanding how to apply for the disaster payment that they may be eligible for or not as the case may be. So, it’s just about finding the right option for them,” she says.
Casework support for family violence victims and vulnerable people
While the Emergency financial relief is a one-off payment, Red Cross Australia’s Vicki Mau says they arrange for casework support for victims of family violence.
“If you go on to Red Cross website, there’s a specific program to support people again on temporary visas without access to income support or on no visa who are experiencing family violence to get additional support through that,” she says.
She encourages people experiencing domestic or family violence to come forward and seek help.
Ms Mau says Red Cross Australia can provide recurring support to some other vulnerable people as well.
“We do have a small provision for people who are particularly vulnerable to be able to be transferred to casework support – if someone presents with young children and there are protection risks there, then absolutely we will do what we can to refer them on.”
Emergency Relief is delivered by 197 providers, with more than 1,300 outlets across Australia where people can access services. The full list of providers is available on the Department of Social Services’ Grants Service Directory.
To apply for Emergency Relief through Red Cross Australia, go to redcross.org.au/emergencyrelief.
The COVID-19 Disaster payment is available for people who have lost more than eight hours of work per week or a full day of work and are in a Commonwealth Declared Hotspot.
Eligible income support recipients who have lost at least 8 hours or one full day of work due to a lockdown can receive $200 per week on top of their regular income support payment.
If you or another person is in danger, call 000
To talk to someone about family violence or sexual assault: 1800respect.org.au or 1800 737 732
Findservicesineachstate and territory: https://www.1800respect.org.au/services
Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 kidshelpline.com.au (24/7 counselling service)
Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491 ntv.org.au (anonymous and confidential telephone counselling for men)
Q Life | 1800 184 527 Provides anonymous and free LGBTI peer support and referral
The National Disability Abuse & Neglect Hotline 1800 880 052 for reporting abuse/neglect of people with a disability.
ELDERHelp | 1800 353 374 to know how you can get help, support and referrals.