CANBERRA, Australia — Australian Labor Party 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 lockdown ends.

“Financial help if you are between 22 and Age Pension age and looking for work,” said JobSeeker on their official website. “It is also for when you are sick or injured and cannot do your usual work or study for a short time.”

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

Labor’s social services spokeswoman Linda Burney said 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 member of parliament made the push with disability spokesman Bill Shorten and emergency management spokesman Murray Watt.

JobSeeker provides up to AU$600 a week for people in hotspot areas who have lost at least 20 hours of work in a seven-day period, and AU$375 for those who have lost between eight and 19 hours. (Dave Hunt/AAP Image)

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 AU$600 ($442) a week for people in hotspot areas who have lost at least 20 hours of work in seven days and AU$375 ($276) for those who have lost between eight and 19 hours.

Meanwhile, the JobSeeker rate is AU$310.40 ($228.81) a week for single people with no children and AU$282.70 ($208.39) for someone in a relationship, excluding the rental supplement.

The dole rises to AU$333.75 ($246.02) 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.

Bjorn Jarvis, head of labor statistics at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, said June saw the eighth consecutive monthly fall in the unemployment rate.

In Australia, the unemployment rate decreased by 0.2 pts to 4.9% in June 2021. The unemployment rate was 2.4 pts lower than June 2020 and 0.4 pts lower than March 2020.

On the other hand, full-time employment increased by 51,600 to 9,016,800 people, and part-time employment decreased by 22,500 to 4,137,400 people in June 2021 compared to June 2020. Over the year to June 2021, full-time employment increased by 487,200 people and part-time employment increased by 290,700 people.

However, hours worked decreased nationally by 1.8 percent between May and June, with hours worked falling by 8.4 percent in Victoria and increasing by 0.5 percent in the rest of Australia.

“Hours worked data continues to provide the best indicator of the extent of labor market impacts from lockdowns,” said Jarvis.

“Hours worked in Victoria fell by 8.4 percent in June, compared with a 0.3 percent fall in employment. This highlights the extent to which people in Victoria had reduced hours or no work through the lockdown, without necessarily losing their jobs.”

Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra

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