After days of mounting pressure, the PM is finally considering cash payments to Victorians left high and dry as the lockdown continues.
The Morrison government is considering disaster cash payments to vulnerable Victorians left dry and without income following the lockdown.
Despite calls for the reintroduction of the JobKeeper-style wage subsidy being rejected, senior government officials have confirmed that various targeted options using existing payment systems are at stake.
News.com.au understands that the Morrison government’s proposal will include an income loss eligibility test to require proof that workers have been left without pay as a result of the lockdown.
One option is a change to the eligibility criteria for existing pandemic payments that offer up to $ 1,500 to people forced into quarantine for two weeks to more casual unemployed. However, this option would require legislation.
Currently, disaster relief money is only available if you are forced to quarantine and therefore cannot work, not just for lockdowns.
The Australian Council for Social Services (ACOSS) is asking the Morrison government to consider offering $ 1,000 in disaster payments to Victorians who have lost all of their paid work.
The current Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment Program (AGDRP) could be used to help Victoria.
Speaking on Sunrise this morning Mr. Frydenberg confirmed that a payment was under consideration.
“It would be targeted, it would be through existing systems. These are the principles that have served very well since the start of the crisis, ”he said.
When asked if states should tie, 50-50, Frydenberg said there are mechanisms for shared payments.
“There is recognition at the state level that they will have to make a significant contribution, and we have had constructive discussions with them,” he said.
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The program offers a one-time, means-tested payment of $ 1,000 per eligible adult and $ 400 per child who has been affected by a major disaster in Australia or overseas.
“Just as the federal government makes disaster recovery payments to people who have been victims of bushfires or floods, it should provide pandemic recovery income assistance, including a disaster recovery payment. in the event of a pandemic, for people who have lost their paid work, ”said ACOSS CEO Dr. Cassandra Goldie said.
“There is no doubt that the closures, while necessary to protect health, have been disasters for people who have lost their paid work. This plan would ensure that payments are expedited for people who need them.
“At this week’s National Cabinet meeting, the federal government and states are expected to develop an employment and income support plan to deal with sudden lockdowns. ”
Ignoring misinformed predictions that the prime minister would refuse to offer any support, ministers told news.com.au that discussions were underway after the lockdown was extended for another week.
Indeed, Treasury Secretary Steve Kennedy told Parliament this week that the treasurer has tasked his officials to look at options for Victoria.
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While the Morrison government has not offered support during short lockdowns in Queensland and other states, a two-week statewide lockdown is a different equation.
But some government ministers believe any pandemic payment should come with conditions to discourage states from locking and closing borders, including states helping fund the payments.
The claim that the Morrison government would refuse to act was fueled by government reports to the media that the Prime Minister did not want to encourage states to shut down by offering cash incentives to some workers.
But behind the scenes, some ministers say an emergency pandemic payment was a war game last year – but only if it was tied to a new definition of hotspot.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg appeared to allude to the government’s thinking on the matter when asked for help with Victoria on Wednesday.
“What we have to think about, given that the pandemic is still with us, is how we approach this on a national basis,” he said.
“Our approaches will continue to be national, sustainable and where support is offered it is through existing systems.”
Mr Frydenberg also raised questions about why the Victoria area has been locked down when areas like Mildura have no cases.
CUTA Secretary Sally McManus told news.com.au people would not be able to pay for “food and rent” if the situation continued.
“Most casual workers in hospitality and retail don’t have savings,” she said.
“If they ever did, they spent it last year. It means they have nothing. No money for food or rent.
“This is a cruel and harsh punishment for people who deserve 100% support from across the country. Restoring JobKeeper is the least the federal government should be doing ”.
The original JobKeeper program excluded millions of casual workers from the wage subsidy program.
But it’s the casuals who are once again hit hardest by the latest lockdown and are seen as in need of help the most.
Accusing states of “jealously guarding” the right to decide when and how they lock down entire staff, the prime minister said he has no control over the matter.
“As the Leader of the Opposition is well aware, decisions to implement containment measures in the states and territories of the country are solely and totally the responsibility of the governments of the states and territories,” Morrison told the parliament.
“Uniquely and totally. The Commonwealth government is not part of the decision-making process.
“I have further discussions with the Acting Prime Minister tonight, as the Treasurer has with the Treasury in Victoria. But blockages in states are decisions of state and territory governments, it is a responsibility that states and territories have jealously guarded during the pandemic and it is their responsibility and they are making those decisions and assuming those responsibilities. . “