Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Questions without Notice
Pensions and Benefits
My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. How is the Morrison government supporting Australians who are being impacted by the economic downturn resulting from the coronavirus pandemic?
I thank Senator O'Sullivan for his question and the opportunity to advise the chamber of the supercharging of the welfare system that has been put in place to help people who find themselves unemployed during this COVID virus outbreak.
As we have already mentioned, there is a temporary supplement that is being paid at a rate of $550 a fortnight to people who are on payment. That means that anybody who is currently eligible for a jobseeker payment will receive in excess of $1,100 a fortnight for the duration of the pandemic. This is being paid not just to new people who have come onto payment but also to people who have found themselves already on payment—people on the jobseeker payment, the youth allowance payment, the parenting payment, the farm household allowance and special benefit.
We've also relaxed a number of criteria to make sure that those people who find themselves coming onto unemployment through no fault of their own have quick and easy access to get the support they need during this pandemic. For instance, we have waived the one-week ordinary waiting period, the liquid asset waiting period and, for permanent residents on their pathway to permanent residency and citizenship of Australia, the newly arrived resident's waiting period. We have also relaxed the income test measures for partner incomes to ensure that those people who find themselves requiring jobseeker payments if their partner's payment is less than $3,070 per fortnight will also be able to get access to the jobseeker payment or part thereof. This is in addition to the $750 one-off payment that was made in early April to all people on payments and a further $750 payment that will be made in July to those people who haven't been eligible for the jobseeker coronavirus supplement.
From the outset, the Morrison government have taken very decisive action to make sure we protect the lives of Australians who live with disability. Early on, we released the COVID-19 Management and Operational Plan for People with Disability, which was received with huge acclamation from the sector. It was a significant milestone in the health response to make sure that people with disability had the protection that they needed during this crisis.
In addition to that, through the Social Services portfolio, we've announced over $90 million of initiatives in a support package to help Australians, particularly those who find themselves in difficult employment situations. In addition to that, we have put $2 million towards a dedicated phone line to support our current web based outreach programs to make sure we are able to provide advice and direction to service that people with disability may be requiring information about during this crisis.
The absolute focus of this government during this crisis has been to save lives and, then, to save livelihoods, and to make sure we can assist Australians to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. To that end, there are a number of grants that exist within the Department of Social Services that we use to deliver essential services to all Australians. In April I announced a $64 million extension for about 3,000 grant recipients to 31 March 2021; those are grants that would have possibly ceased in the coming months. This is to make sure we are able to maintain continuity of service throughout this time and to make sure we are providing services to Australians, particularly those most at risk of this pandemic. We acknowledge we have a long road ahead and we are here to make sure that we support all Australians with this great challenge. We have planned for the worst and we are working hard to make sure that that does not happen.