Australian government’s announcements on JobSeeker payment cuts left more than one million Australians left worrying about finances to hold them up until the end of this year, the Australian Council of Social Services chief executive says.
In earlier interviews, the Australian Prime Minister Morrison Scott had already said that the government financial supplements provided through JobSeeker and JobKeeper schemes could not go on perpetually. While millions of Australians still benefit in these schemes, consideration of fund cuts is also at hand.
JobSeeker is an ongoing government scheme that gives personal finance support to Australians between the age of 22 and the retirement age who are still looking for work. JobSeeker payments are also given for recipients who cannot do usual work or study for a while because of an illness or an injury. In general, to qualify for the JobSeeker payment, you have to meet three criteria: age requirement, income limits, and residence rules. Before the pandemic, recipients get JobSeeker payments deposited in their accounts every two weeks. The amounts depend on the recipient’s situation, but in general, the pre-pandemic rate only averages at 40 dollars per day.
As a way for the Australian government to assist with its citizens’ financial difficulties during the pandemic, they legislated a scheme to expand this payment system. There were changes made on the eligibility to cater to more pandemic-hit Australians. New eligibility rules state that Australians whose work situations changed because of COVID-19 can now apply for the program given that:
They are permanent employees who lost their regular jobs.
They are sole traders, contract workers, or self -employed with incomes that have been reduced due to the pandemic.
They are taking care of someone affected by the COVID-19 virus.
Apart from these, JobSeeker has also temporarily removed the Assets Test for applicants until September 24. Come the 25th, applicants with assets above the allowable limit will not be eligible anymore. On average, JobSeeker pays its recipients 550 dollars a fortnight in the temporary COVID-19 rules.
However, the government has already announced that JobSeeker payments each fortnight will be reduced to 250 dollars starting Monday of next week, September 18. Many experts and institutions have warned against the negative impacts of the sudden 300 dollars cut to the JobSeeker payment millions of Australians have been used to getting since the peak of the pandemic in March.
Sophie Elsworth, a Finance Writer from News Corp, has warned that this significant cut will wound millions of Australians and inevitably lead to inevitable personal finance difficulties. The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) has also mentioned the adverse effects this payment reduction will cause to millions of beneficiaries.
Even Bill Gye from the Community Mental Health Australia has also rectified these anticipated effects, saying that the reduction of JobSeeker payments may negatively impact many Australians’ mental health.
In his recent press con, the Prime Minister has already mentioned that the JobSeeker payments’ chances to go back to the pre-pandemic rate are low. However, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston quickly clarified that the government would not make any decisions about the program yet until the Federal Budget is delivered in October. When asked, she emphasized that the results of the scheduled payment reductions and the pandemic effects remain uncertain. Hence, the government has to remain in the best position to provide support.
However, the government’s deferred decision on the JobSeeker budget has also received criticisms. According to ACOSS, although this move will greatly benefit the government, at least 1.5 million Australians who are enrolled in the scheme remain anxious about the uncertainty of boosted payments to support them beyond this year. ACOSS appeals for the government to clearer legislation on permanent payment increase or payment continuation to up to 2021 to guarantee its citizens.
The government assures the country that all pleas and concerns are heard, but the government is continuously working to provide certainty of Australians’ support throughout the pandemic. Leader of the opposition, Anthony Albanese, criticized this move further, accusing the government of being better in announcements rather than actions and resolutions.
Moreover, the government also promised expanded support for pensioners in the coming budget. Senator Ruston already mentioned that pensioners have already received at least two 750 dollars payments in cash as a part of the government’s COVID-19 response. In the coming Federal Budget, more support programs are still expected to be announced. Pensions usually adjust twice yearly, with one in March and the other in September, to ensure that payments support the current economic atmosphere and living cost.
Meanwhile, many of the country’s biggest banks now offer effective and useful personal financial support to many Australians. These offers may be of some help to many Australians financially affected by the pandemic. For example, the National Australian Bank is now advertising a personal loan offer that may amount to 5,000 to 55,000 dollars. This personal loan offer has a loan term of up to seven years, with repayments as low as 85 dollars per week. Many other prominent banks provide offers like this as support to the financially troubled Australians.
It can be recalled that personal loans were some of the big four banks COVID-19 reliefs parallel to government-supported supplements for its customers. Other relief packages included loan deferrals, business loans, early release of superannuation funds, and cuts on interests and unnecessary fees.
At present, COVID-19 has already greatly affected the country and its economy, pushing for it to witness a recession after decades. Despite the catastrophe, the country remains as one of the countries worldwide with the best COVID-19 responses, data shows. This success is measured in both containing and combating the virus and the government’s support to its citizens.