Australia

Australians must wait beyond October for decision on COVID-19 supplement payment

People wait for a tram in Melbourne on 2 August 2020. Source: AAP

From next week, the coronavirus supplement payment will be reduced by $300 to $250 a fortnight.

More than 1.6 million Australians will have to wait until after the October budget to learn if the government will extend its coronavirus supplement to JobKeeper.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston on Saturday announced the government would not make a call until it could see the impact of a scheduled reduction in payments from next week.

"We will not be making announcements in budget," she told reporters.

"We don't know what Australia is going to look like on the other side of this pandemic. We don't know when it's going to end."

"So we will remain agile and we will continue to provide the support that is needed for Australia and Australians."

About 1.6 million Australians receive unemployment payments, which were boosted in April by $550 a fortnight. From next week, the supplement will be cut to $250 each fortnight.

The government says the coronavirus supplement of $250 a fortnight will apply from 25 September until 31 December 2020. 

That reduction alone will plunge many families into hardship, Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie says.

Add in the uncertainty about the boosted payments continuing into 2021 and Dr Goldie says people will have to start skipping meals and forgoing fresh fruit and vegetables to scrounge Christmas gifts for their children.

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"While it might suit some within government to not make decisions yet ... 1.6 million people are worrying today about how they are going to get through Christmas," she said.

ACOSS is calling on the Morrison government to legislate a permanent increase to JobSeeker or at least guarantee a level of increased payments beyond this year.

"The government says that it has peoples' backs - that means delivering adequacy of income support and confidence that is not going to be taken away in just a few months time," Dr Goldie said.

The Social Services Minister also revealed that although the aged pension won't be indexed as usual due to economic conditions, extra support for older Australians would be announced in the budget.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at https://sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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