Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has defended plans to cut back emergency income support payments, saying the economy will “bounce back” after Australia hits its crucial vaccination targets in November.
But amid concerns about whether Australians will manage to find work when case numbers soar upon reopening, new research shows 354,000 more people are accessing income support now than before the pandemic.
That is a 27 per cent increase since September 2019 – and advocates fear thousands more will be pushed below the poverty line after the COVID-19 Disaster Payment ends.
The University of New South Wales and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) compiled the data and mapped the rise in income support recipients across federal electorates.
The electorates with the highest number of income support recipients were Spence in South Australia (23,178), Lingiari in the Northern Territory (21,412), and Calwell in Victoria (21,054) – based on the number of people who would have been eligible for the temporary Coronavirus Supplement had it been available in September 2021.
(You can find out how badly the economic effects of the pandemic have affected your electorate by searching for it in the interactive graphic.)
Mr Frydenberg has said those without work can still access JobSeeker.
But ACOSS chief Cassandra Goldie said no one knows how workers will fare after being stood down during lockdowns, calling it a “great unknown”.
Advocates argue payments must be urgently extended and expanded to reflect that lockdowns will still occur once vaccine targets are hit.
Dr Goldie said 80 per cent of those eligible for the temporary Coronavirus Supplement last year – a $550-a-fortnight payment that lifted millions of people out of poverty – are already ineligible for the newer COVID-19 Disaster Payment.
That equates to 750,000 people in lockdown with no additional income support.
Ms Goldie said the government is creating a “scorched economic path” that will slow the COVID-19 recovery for everyone moving into 2022.
“They’ve left people on poverty payments of $44 a day,” she told TND.
“In addition, they seem intent on bringing back the draconian and harsh mutual obligations.”