The St Vincent de Paul Society and the ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) have expressed disappointment in the Federal Government’s decision to make further cuts to the JobSeeker COVID-19 supplement.
This week, it was announced the JobSeeker supplement, paid on top of the JobSeeker payment, would be extended until March 2021, however, at a further reduced rate of $150 per fortnight.
ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said a further reduction to the current COVID-19 supplement would hit Canberra families especially hard in the lead up to Christmas.
“The Christmas and New Year holiday period, followed by the start of a new school year, is an expensive time for families,” she said.
“The number of Canberrans receiving income support while looking for work has more than doubled due to the impacts of COVID-19. Almost 23,000 Canberrans are currently receiving the Coronavirus Supplement.
“This Christmas was already going to be tough for the thousands of Canberrans who have lost jobs and income over the past year. Now they face a further cut to income support on 31 December.”
The COVID-19 supplement was $550 when first introduced during April and was further reduced to $250 at the end of September.
Dr Campbell said the payment reduction was “cruel and damaging” after analysis found over 8,000 more people were living below the poverty line in Canberra since the first reduction in September.
“When first introduced in April, the Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per fortnight protected many people from experiencing poverty if they were without work,” she said.
“Further reducing the Coronavirus Supplement from the current rate of $250 per fortnight to $150 means that these payments will fall even further below the poverty line, pushing more Canberrans into poverty and pushing people deeper into poverty.”
A recent ANU study found there was an average loss of 67.4 working hours over the pandemic period to date, with males losing more hours than females.
The same study also found an increase in anxiety and worry linked to COVID-19.
St Vincent de Paul Society national president, Claire Victory, said the organisation was concerned about the supplement reduction, especially for the wellbeing of its clients.
“Punitive action is rarely effective, and right now in these difficult times, more support is essential to help people get back on track,” she said.
“The research also shows that anxiety and worry due to COVID-19 has continued to increase, with females and young Australians continuing to be more anxious and worried.
“The government and the Australian community must remain vigilant and committed to helping people in need.”