Coronavirus closures force hundreds into welfare system
THE widespread closure of Warwick’s businesses and industries due to government coronavirus restrictions is forcing hundreds of locals to rely on Centrelink payments for survival, putting additional strain on an already congested system.
Since the Government’s welfare increases on Monday, queues outside Centrelink customer service centres have been consistently long as huge numbers of workers who have had their hours cut back or have lost their jobs altogether line up to try and regain some financial security amid the coronavirus panic.
Warwick resident Jess Bravery said she had no choice but to apply for a Jobseeker payment after losing her job at a local bar with less than a day’s warning.
“I’m a single mum of five children, so losing that income is going to impact us greatly,” Ms Bravery said.
“Even with the parenting payment and family tax, it still doesn’t really cover rent and everything else. I’m a qualified hairdresser, among other things, so usually I would be able to find work easily – but I just don’t think it will be in Warwick.”
As part of the government’s latest stimulus package, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the Centrelink Jobseeker – previously Newstart – payments will be increased and the usually stringent application criteria would be loosened.
Applicants must still be aged between 22 and 66 and should be either unemployed or on greatly reduced hours while seeking other work. The payments will remain about $565 a fortnight, until April 27 when they will jump to about $1100.
However, the government has now waived the waiting period for most non-citizens along with the liquid assets test, meaning applicants no longer need to deplete their savings before being approved.
Warwick resident Amber Price still works casually at a local cafe and said her employer is doing their best to give her enough hours, but the shortage of work means her financial security is still largely at the mercy of Centrelink payments.
“My partner just lost his job a local bar with hardly any warning, because of all the closures happening,” Ms Price said.
“We just bought a house too, about three weeks ago. So, between the loss of income and the house, we’re both applying for these payments to try to prepare some savings for when, or if, we go into lockdown.”
“We’re a bit worried that we might not qualify because we now have an asset, but we aren’t sure. We’re just trying to keep our heads up, it’s all we can really do.”