Coronavirus hardship payment for temporary migrants, refugees in Victoria doubled

Migrant advocates have welcomed the increased payment, which they described as a "lifeline", but called on the federal government to extend their support to temporary visa holders.

Temporary migrants in Victoria will now be able to access a one-off $800 emergency payment if they are in severe financial hardship.

Temporary migrants in Victoria will now be able to access a one-off $800 emergency payment if they are in severe financial hardship. Source: Supplied

Temporary visa holders, refugees and undocumented migrants in Victoria who are ineligible for federal government support can now access an emergency payment of $800 to assist with financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The announcement on Thursday doubles the original $400 per-person hardship payment introduced earlier this year. People who have already accessed the original payment will also be eligible for the additional funds.

More than 8,000 temporary migrants, who are not covered by the federal government's JobSeeker and JobKeeper programs, have already accessed the payments to a cost of $3.3. million, according to a Victorian government spokesperson.

There are an estimated 1.1 million temporary visa holders in Australia. 

“This virus doesn’t discriminate, but its effects are felt more harshly by the most vulnerable among us – those without savings or work who are experiencing extreme hardship," Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday.

“Whether it’s making sure getting tested doesn’t mean missing payday or support for those doing it really tough, we are acting to look after all Victorians during this crisis.”

In order to receive the extreme hardship support payment, applicants must be able to show they have zero or very limited income, savings, or community support, and that they are unable to access any federal government supports.

Director of the Migrant Workers Centre, Matt Kunkel, welcomed the increased payment as a "much-needed lifeline to migrants in Victoria", but called on the federal government to extend the national wage subsidies to all workers in next week's budget.

"It’s now up to the federal government to step up and show their support for the more than 1.1 million people in this country who are struggling under the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic," he said. 

"The need for assistance is more urgent than ever. We've had workers come to us facing homelessness, unable to afford food and essentials."

Chief executive of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Kon Karapanagiotidis, similarly praised the increase but said it didn't go far enough.

"No Australian out there is going to survive a pandemic on a one-off $800 payment," he told SBS News. 

"It's a great step forward, but it doesn't fill the critical need that is a federal government responsibility," he said. "In 20 years of running the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, I have never seen a greater humanitarian crisis." 

Temporary and undocumented migrants have been disproportionately hit by job losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many facing homelessness, unable to leave Australia.

Additional reporting: Abby Dinham

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Published 1 October 2020 at 7:24pm, updated 1 October 2020 at 7:29pm
By SBS News
Source: SBS News