News Greater Melbourne workers who lost jobs to COVID lockdown eligible for Commonwealth payments

Greater Melbourne workers who lost jobs to COVID lockdown eligible for Commonwealth payments

The federal government ruled out a wage subsidy scheme like its previous JobKeeper program. Photo: ABC News/Ian Cutmore
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People in greater Melbourne who have lost work as a result of the lockdown will receive a payment of either $500 or $325, as part of a financial support package from the federal government.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the “temporary COVID disaster payment” would be made on a week-by-week basis.

People over the age of 17 who usually work more than 20 hours a week will be eligible for the full $500, or $325 if they work fewer hours than that.

The payment will be part of a new “national framework” and will be made available to other states if they are declared a Commonwealth hotspot and a lockdown is needed for more than a week, like is currently the case in Melbourne but not regional Victoria.

To be eligible, a person must declare that they would have worked has a lockdown not been imposed and would lose income because of it, that they have used up all of their pandemic sick leave or other leave if their employer offers it, and that they have less than $10,000 in “liquid assets”.

People who are receiving other kinds of support payments from the Commonwealth, like JobSeeker, will not be able to access the payment.

“We are talking about somebody getting through the next week,” Mr Morrison said.

“Someone who would normally be in an economic situation where every dollar counts.

“They will be able to [apply] from Tuesday in making an application online with Services Australia and there will also be a number they can contact and there will be further information provided about that.”

The Prime Minister said state and territory leaders would talk about how the payment is funded at tomorrow’s National Cabinet meeting.

“There are two options,” Mr Morrison said.

“What I put to the acting Victorian Premier last night was that we should split 50-50 both payments. Go 50-50 on household and 50-50 on business.

“Alternatively, the states can agree that in these circumstances they will always provide the business support and we will always provide the household support.

“Either way, we will work it out at National Cabinet tomorrow, we will have a good discussion about it.

“What matters is that businesses get the support they need and households get the support they need, and the politicians don’t need to have a discussion in public about how that is going to get done.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said while the government did not have an estimate of how much the payment would cost over the next week, given it would be demand-driven, treasury and finance were “working the numbers through”.

“For every 100,000 people that will be $50 million per week,” he said.

“It is the estimate, that there are around a half million casuals in the metropolitan Melbourne area, and obviously bearing in mind that this relates to the Commonwealth definition of a hotspot.”

The government had already flagged it was considering what support options were available for the state, but had ruled out a JobKeeper 2.0-style wage subsidy scheme.

The state government announced more than $200 million in extra financial support for businesses yesterday after extending Victoria’s lockdown for another week.

Mr Morrison said he had spoken to acting Victorian Premier James Merlino and Mr Frydenberg spoke to his state counterpart about the payment last night.

The federal opposition said it welcomed the support, but accused Mr Morrison of resisting providing help to Victoria.

“Let’s be completely clear, the Prime Minister has been dragged kicking and screaming to his announcement today,” deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said.

The Business Council of Australia also welcomed the announcement, but also warned quarantine systems needed to be improved to prevent the payment from being needed again.

“New outbreaks shouldn’t be a surprise to any state or territory,” chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

“Victorians are right to ask why their state continues to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic while the rest of the country gets on with it.

“We know the risks and vulnerabilities, so why haven’t we got our systems right yet?”