Shift unemployed to disaster relief: Labor

Labor wants welfare recipients living in lockdown areas automatically bumped onto higher COVID-19 disaster relief payments.

It also wants the federal government to automatically move people back onto JobSeeker and waive the waiting period when the lockdowns end.

Currently, people receiving the dole or other government payments aren’t eligible for disaster relief and have to choose one or the other.

Labor’s social services spokeswoman Linda Burney says it should be simplified.

“If a worker is entitled to a higher payment, they should receive it, automatically. People should not have to jump through hoops to get the assistance they have been promised,” she said.

The MP made the push with disability spokesman Bill Shorten and emergency management spokesman Murray Watt.

The trio demanded the coalition government give an “iron-clad guarantee” the waiting period would be waived for people moving back onto JobSeeker from the disaster payment.

The scheme provides up to $600 a week for people in hotspot areas who have lost at least 20 hours of work in a seven-day period, and $375 for those who have lost between eight and 19 hours.

Meanwhile, the JobSeeker rate is $310.40 a week for single people with no children and $282.70 for someone in a relationship, excluding the rental supplement.

The dole rises to $333.75 for single people with children and as well as for those aged 60 or older if they’ve been on the payment for nine months straight.

Advocacy groups have repeatedly called on the government to expand disaster payments to people on welfare, so they don’t have to choose.

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