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Friday, January 22, 2021

‘Precautionary’ COVID hardship payments for ACT workers

Hardship payments of up to $1,500 will be available for ACT workers who need to take time off work to self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19.

Depending on the individual’s circumstances, the payments will be made available for workers unable to access other available support or sick leave from their employer.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the introduction of the over $1 million hardship fund is precautionary at this stage, with the hope “we don’t have to use it”.

“That’s the ideal situation, that we’re able to manage the public health circumstances in such a way that we don’t need to [use it]. But it’s there for a group of individuals who might find themselves in that difficulty.”

He said there would be eligibility criteria for those applying for the payment. Applicants would have to show that they have no sick leave or other sources of income such as Commonwealth payments, as well as prove they have no savings and are not a dependant.

“Waiting for a test result is often less than 24 hours, so you wouldn’t get $1,500 [to be] at home for 24 hours,” Mr Barr said.

“But if you were forced to sit out for a fortnight because you were required for reasons of the incubation period of the virus to do so, and you had access to nothing else, then this emergency relief would be there for you.”

Mr Barr also criticised the Federal Government for leaving some people unable to access Commonwealth supports. He said this “consistent pattern of drawing the line at the wrong point” has required State and Territory Governments as well as community organisations to “step in and fill the void”.

“In all of these circumstances through this year, there have been examples where, for no particular reason, the Commonwealth has drawn an arbitrary line that has left some people out,” he said.

“Whether that’s international students, whether that’s casual workers who were with an employer for less than 12 months back in March.”

The Federal Government has extended the offer of paid pandemic leave, currently in place in Victoria, to other States and Territories should they find themselves in a similar situation and declare a state of emergency or disaster.  

Mr Barr also announced the ACT Government would extend the utilities concession to eligible asylum seekers. Those with an ACT Services Access Card will be able to apply by 30 June 2021 for a $900 rebate on their electricity bills for 2020-21.

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