Finance Welfare One million Australians tipped to seek welfare because of virus

One million Australians tipped to seek welfare because of virus

dole numbers coronavirus
People line up at a Queensland Centrelink office in the early days of the pandemic. Photo: AAP
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One million Australians are expected to apply for unemployment benefits because of coronavirus.

The number of people on JobSeeker rose by about 500,000 from February to April, with another 400,000 expected to apply by September.

The estimates haven’t changed despite the Morrison government announcing a massive wage subsidy scheme since the projections were made.

The government has doubled the JobSeeker payment – formerly known as Newstart – and expanded eligibility to income support for the period of the coronavirus pandemic.

Department of Social Services secretary Kathryn Campbell is tight-lipped on whether the higher rate will be maintained after the pandemic is over.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has insisted the dole will return to its pre-pandemic levels at the end of September.

Ms Campbell said all options were still on the table but the department was in the early steps of creating advice for the government.

Ms Campbell said the disability pension was ineligible for the coronavirus boost because it was designed for people who were in the workforce.

She also recognised there has been confusion about the start date and length of the JobSeeker boost. It has been revealed the flagged April 27 start date was linked to recipient’s reporting periods.

“I appreciate there has been some confusion here. We are working to ensure the websites are accurate,” Ms Campbell said.

The boost will also apply for a shorter period than six months as indicated.

Almost 600,000 businesses have applied for the JobKeeper wage subsidy – a payment of $1500 a fortnight – to support more than 3.3 million workers.

The figure is well under the estimated six million workers over a six-month period when the policy was costed at $130 billion.

Mr Morrison said the emergency measures had a set lifespan and a wind back would be needed to ensure the federal budget did not blow out further.

“Labor has serious concerns about the impact this will have on the hundreds of thousands of Australians whose jobs remain uncertain, and the impact this will have on the economy when or if the government suddenly snaps back the payment,” Labor senator Katy Gallagher said.