COVID-19 Useful Information -> Financial Support
In this Section:
Both the State and Federal Government have announced a number of new measures intended to help those adversely impacted by COVID-19.
^ Our position
The Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association calls on governments to provide support to all workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We follow the call of the broader union movement in calling for paid leave entitlements to be extended to casual workers and for support to those who find themselves out of a job.
Furthermore, the government’s response must put health outcomes before profit motives.
^ Measures Introduced
A number of measures have been introduced by state and federal governments to support people through the pandemic:
^ Federal Government
If you are receiving JobSeeker Allowance, pensions or other benefits, you will be entitled to a once off $750 payment at the end of March. A second $750 payment will be made on 13 July to recipients of the age pension, carers allowance or family tax benefit as well as commonwealth senior card holders. Unfortunately, this measure does not extend to other low paid workers not receiving benefits nor has the Federal Government provided much else in the way of financial compensation for workers impacted by COVID-19.
It is expected that significant numbers of redundancies will be made over the coming period as business activity slows as the government attempts to slow down the transmission rate of COVID-19. If you find yourself out of a job as a result of this, the waiting period as well as the asset test for the JobSeeker Payment, as well as Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment, will be waved and exemptions to mutual obligations and participation requirements may apply. More information can be viewed on the Services Australia website.
In addition, the rates of JobSeeker Payment have been doubled for the duration of the pandemic thanks to a new $550 “coronavirus supplement” – to around $1,100 a fortnight, a supplement which is set to end in September, though the Federal Government is suggesting it could end before that point, or with a more gradual wind-down.
Other forms of benefits including Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment will also be eligible for this supplement. The government is also allowing sole traders and casuals, who lose 20% or more of their incomes, to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation, tax free, this financial year and again next financial year (a total of $20,000) – however, VAHPA cautions against accessing your super early as doing so can potentially have an adverse impact on your retirement savings in the long term.
The Federal Government has also announced a $2.4 billion dollar health package to provide support across primary care, aged care, hospitals, research and the national medical stockpile. This includes $100 million dollars for a new Medicare service for people in home-isolation or quarantine.
The $1,500 a fortnight JobKeeper program is also available for employers to cover employee wages; as well as to cover loss of income for sole traders. The JobKeeper program is also set to end in September, but like with the JobSeeker supplement, the government is suggesting that the JobKeeper program could be terminated earlier.
Workers who contract COVID-19 while on the job are also able to claim workers compensation.
^ State Government
The Victorian State Government’s support is primarily geared towards supporting businesses impacted by the shutdowns as a result of COVID-19, through its $1.7bn Economic Survival Package. The support includes once-off grants worth $10,000 for small businesses most impacted by the pandemic, as well as other measures.
The State Government has also established the Working For Victoria initiative, allowing workers who have lost their jobs to be redeployed into in-demand areas – including upskilling and training. The idea behind this is that workers don’t wind up in unemployment while businesses have a pool of skill-ready people who, are ready to work, to tap in to.
In addition, the State Government announced a $20 million dollar package on 5 April 2020 to accommodate health workers in hotels, free of charge, who have to self-isolate.
The Victorian State Government also announced, on 2 April 2020, that it would be putting in an extra $1.3 billion to “quickly establish an extra 4,000 ICU beds and purchase millions more masks, gloves and gowns to meet the expected surge in cases during the peak of the pandemic”.
^ Local Councils
Some local Councils are also offering support packages and measures to support businesses and residents through the COVID-19 pandemic. For specific details, consult your Council’s website.
^ What Logic? Economic vs health? Supporting workers vs tax cut
The Federal Government’s ultimate objective from its response to the COVID-19 pandemic – whether it be eradication or flattening the curve – has not always been clear. Initially, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the federal government was keen to emphasise that disruption should be minimal. However, as COVID-19 continued to spread, broader and tougher restrictions were put into place in order to halt the spread, along with the raft of measures outlined above designed primarily to support businesses as well as the hundreds of thousands of workers who found themselves out of a job as a result of closures. The Australian Government, along with state governments, were among the earliest to initiate restrictions.
As such, the pandemic effectively forced the government’s hand in putting aside – at least partially and temporarily – its long held ideological orthodoxy of laissez faire economics in favour of some Keynesian measures; direct government intervention to keep the economy going and with hope that the economy will fire back up quickly once the pandemic is over.
The Victorian State Government, on the other hand, has been more clear cut: it wants to stamp out the spread of COVID-19, so as to ensure that there is not a secondary spread of the virus. This too has come from an economic standpoint, but elimination – given the lack of a vaccine or effective treatment – is clearly also the best course of action to take from a health standpoint as well. Elimination is also the aim of the New Zealand Government.
COVID-19 Useful Information -> Financial Support