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COVID support payment changes ‘distressing news’

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has put its support behind its national colleagues in the push to maintain a higher unemployment welfare payment, after an announcement from the Federal Government today, Tuesday 21 July.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced changes to both the JobKeeper and JobSeeker schemes, with the first round of reduced payments to start in September.

Mr Morrison announced from 25 September, the JobSeeker supplement would be reduced to $250, previously $550, totalling a payment of $800 per fortnight.

ACTCOSS stated its full support of a statement the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) made on its Facebook page.

“This will come as distressing news for people on JobSeeker and other income support payments. Many are telling us they need every cent they are currently receiving in order to cover the basics – housing, groceries, bills, transport,” the statement read.  

“Cutting already low incomes by $300 per fortnight in September is deeply concerning, especially when more people than ever before will struggle to find paid work, with one job available for every 13 people on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance.

“It is of further concern that people face another cut just after Christmas.”

The JobSeeker payment will also require recipients to engage in four job searches per month with penalties applying for job refusals.

Recipients can earn up to $300 per fortnight without the JobSeeker payment being affected. 

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said today’s announcement left a cloud of uncertainty for many, especially those who are unemployed.

“People need financial security and certainty at this anxious time. Today’s announcement gives them neither,” she said.

“The full supplement should be maintained until it is replaced with a permanent, adequate increase. Instead, the Coronavirus Supplement has been extended only to 31 December, with people facing the prospect of returning to $40 a day on New Year’s Day.

“While we note that the Prime Minister said today the supplement may be extended beyond the end of the year, what we needed from the Government today was an adequate, permanent fix to income support, not a temporary, lowered extension.”

The Morrison Government also announced the reduction of the JobKeeper scheme from September, to $1,200 per fortnight for those working over 20 hours per week, and $750 a fortnight for those working under 20 hours per week. 

Further reductions will be made to the scheme from 4 January with $1,000 per fortnight for those working over 20 hours per week, and $650 a fortnight for those working under 20 hours per week. 

Dr Goldie said that while the extension of the schemes was welcomed by ACOSS, there were still concerns about certain struggling community groups.

“The reduction in the full-time rate of JobKeeper after September is of concern, especially given the cut to the Jobseeker payment,” she said.

“We are very disappointed that today’s announcement has not closed the gaps in the scheme which have left temporary migrants in desperate circumstances, without access to JobKeeper, JobSeeker or Medicare.

“In addition to adequate income support, people who have lost their jobs also need a range of other supports to help them secure work as the economy recovers, including career advice and training.

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