While many will be hoping the new year will bring new beginnings, millions of Australians are set to be financially worse off amid cuts to the JobSeeker payment.
The JobSeeker payment, introduced to soften the economic blow of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been cut from Friday 1 January, 2021.
About 1.6 million people receiving the $250 fortnightly payment will now receive just $150.
The move has angered the federal government’s opponents and welfare groups, which claim vulnerable people will struggle to get by.
The Australian Council of Social Services has called for a permanent increase of JobSeeker to $65 a day to bring people above the poverty line.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the cut is needed to kickstart the economy in 2021.
“It’s about continually going forward, not taking steps back,” he said on November 10 when announcing the change.
“(It) will see more and more Australians, will see more and more businesses, graduate from the economic supports that were so essential over these many months. “
On January 4, the JobKeeper payment will be reduced by $200.
The opposition has reiterated calls for the government to reverse the cuts.
“Scott Morrison’s New Year’s Day cuts will hurt millions of Australians,” Labor frontbencher Andrew Giles tweeted on Friday.
“This is senseless cruelty, which flies in the face of expert advice and the experiences of those families who’ve lived the difference that decent income support has made.
“We can’t leave Australians behind.”
Renewed call for JobSeeker payment increase
The Australian Council of Social Service says the move to reduce the JobSeeker payment will see vulnerable people trying to get by on $50 a day.
“As 2021 begins and everyone tries to put 2020 behind them, people without paid work will be trying to get by on just $50 a day, which simply isn’t enough to cover housing, food, transport and bills,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.
“The number of people on JobSeeker doubled to 1.5 million during the pandemic and is expected to rise still more when JobKeeper ends in March.”
JobSeeker on Friday reverts to its pre-coronavirus rate of an “unliveable” $40 a day, and the Youth Allowance will be $33 a day, Dr Goldie said.
“People and the economy need security to be able to rebuild – virtually every dollar of the coronavirus supplement goes straight back into the local economy, helping to keep other people in employment.”
The federal government has always said the increased payments were a temporary measure which began in March during the nationwide lockdown. They have been extended in staggered reductions.
Federal Labor warned it is too early to reduce the payment.
“We are not out of the woods yet with this pandemic and the economic effects, they (are) reverberating around the economy, especially in regional towns and suburbs where there is a lot of casual workers who have borne the biggest brunt,” Labor’s Bill Shorten told Nine’s Today Show on Tuesday.
“For the less well off, we shouldn’t be cutting their circumstances at this point in time.”
“The government should reconsider it.”