Bushfire-hit children who have received $400 cash disaster recovery payments will get a further $400 under a plan announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Mr Morrison revealed a series of changes to a number of schemes, including the child payment, as the government sought to simplify and improve the way the help is being rolled out.
Before the announcement, welfare groups had voiced concerns the level of the payment had not been increased in 14 years.
“Right now it is all about focusing on the basics people need,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
He said families would not need to reapply to receive the extra payment, which would be rolled out from next Monday and benefit around 20,000 children mostly in NSW.
As well, the process for applying for payments to volunteer firefighters who have foregone income to help tackle the blazes would be simplified.
Firefighters would not need to substantiate their income losses in applying for up to $200 a day, capped at a total of $6000.
However, if they were seeking above $200 a day, up to $300, they would still need to substantiate the claim with a pay slip or other information.
Disaster recovery grants of up to $75,000 for farmers have also been tweaked, with the program to cover major assets for farmers whose residence may not have been affected but their fences or vehicles were damaged or destroyed.
The government on Wednesday announced charities will get more government funding to hand out food vouchers, financial counselling and help with basics in bushfire-affected communities.
A total of $40 million would go to the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul, with $10 million for the National Debt Hotline.
The charities would be responsible for distributing the vouchers as well as helping those impacted by the fires to pay for bills, petrol, clothing and transport costs.
The increased funding for the debt hotline would go to getting locals into bushfire-affected areas to provide face-to-face financial counselling.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the extra assistance was welcome.
But he said the government needed to reduced red tape and clarify which communities are eligible for various forms of help.
“It should never have been the case that people who have been impacted by the fires were told, ‘No, you’re not in the right area because the maps are wrong’,” he told reporters in Melbourne, ahead of Mr Morrison’s media conference.
The Australian Council of Social Service applauded the government’s move, but again called for the rate of Newstart to be raised – having not increased in real terms in 25 years.
“Increasing Newstart will get people through tough times and provide needed economic stimulus, especially in regional communities struggling with high unemployment, likely to be made worse in those affected by the bushfire crisis,” ACOSS chief Cassandra Goldie said.