What you need to know about the new Covid support payment

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

An emergency payment to support people unable to work during extended COVID-19 lockdowns has been proposed but it is already facing opposition in the states.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed the payment on Thursday, under pressure to assist Victorians suffering through an extended lockdown which will now run for at least two weeks.

There are expectations of discord at Friday's national cabinet, with the Victorian Government unhappy with the Morrison government's offer of a "temporary COVID-19 disaster payment" for workers in extended lockdown.

The question of who, or rather what level of government, will pay has been left open by the Prime Minister who has already spoken to some of the premiers about the plan.

National cabinet will discuss either splitting worker and business support, as it is now, or move to a cost sharing option to, according to the Prime Minister, "go 50-50 on household and 50-50 on business."

What is the payment?

The temporary COVID-19 disaster payment is a "national framework" of support for locations defined by the chief medial officer as Commonwealth hotspots, and where there are lockdowns imposed by state public health orders that extend for more than seven days.

The payment is designed to support people who are unable to work and earn an income because of imposed restrictions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the scheme was similar to one used in New Zealand, as it only took affect when a lockdown was in place for more than seven days.

"We are talking about somebody getting through the next week who would normally be in an economic situation where every dollar counts," Mr Morrison said.

How much is it?

Mr Morrison said the payment would be $500 for people who would lose more than 20 hours in a week.

For people who would lose fewer hours of work in a week, it will be $325.

Who is eligible?

The payment will be available for Australian citizens, permanent residents, and eligible working visa holders.

They must be unable to attend work because of the restrictions imposed during a lockdown. To be eligible for the temporary COVID-19 disaster payment, workers must have liquid assets below $10,000.

Anyone who already receives income support payments, business support payments, or the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment will not be eligible.

People must also have exhausted any leave entitlements other than annual leave.

How do you access it?

Residents can apply for the payment via an online application with Services Australia. The government is also working to set up a 1800 phone number to assist people with the payments.

Once the application is granted, the money will be deposited into recipients' bank accounts like any other social services payment. Payments would be made from the second week of restrictions and then weekly for any subsequent weeks of lockdown.

When will it be available?

As Victoria's lockdown has been extended by a further seven days for metropolitan Melbourne, workers in that area will be able to apply for the payment from Monday.

Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said Melbourne residents would be able to contact Centrelink to apply.

"We are working with Services Australia to make sure that on Monday morning those people impacted that are in defined Commmonwealth hotspots will be able to contact Centrelink and be able to make their application," he said.

"Centrelink is ready to go and they will have their people ready to move on Tuesday morning so that these dollars can hit people's accounts as quickly as possible.

"Centrelink is making sure they have the resources.

"People can be rest assured that the money will be in their account as it was during the fires, floods, and cyclones, and bushfires."

Why has it been announced?

The federal government has been under increasing pressure to provide financial support to Victorians following the seven-day "circuit breaker" lockdown imposed last week. On Wednesday, Victoria's acting Premier James Merlino announced that the lockdown would be extended for another week in metropolitan Melbourne, while restrictions will ease in regional Victoria.

Mr Merlino also pleaded with the federal government to reconsider its earlier rejection of the idea of restarting the JobKeeper wage subsidy for struggling Victorians.

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Mr Morrison said the payment was similar to other disaster relief payments made during national disasters.

"Whether that is bushfires or floods or cyclones, or the many other areas where the Commonwealth government provides that disaster relief," he said. "I see this very much as disaster relief for the people of Victoria. This is not something they have control [over]."

What is the definition of a COVID-19 hotspot?

Payments will not be triggered for people living in an area unless that area is declared a Commonwealth COVID-19 hotspot.

The definition of a Commonwealth COVID-19 hotspot is any area where there is a case in the community and there are opportunities for wide community exposure.

A metropolitan area would be deemed a hotspot when the rolling three-day average is 10 locally acquired cases per day, equalling 30 cases in three consecutive days.

The threshold is lower in regional areas.

A rural or regional area would be classed as a hotspot if the rolling three-day average is three locally acquired cases per day.

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This story What you need to know about the new Covid support payment first appeared on The Canberra Times.


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