Back in June, the federal government started offering financial support to workers who had lost their work due to lockdowns – lump sum payments between $200-$750 to help them tide over the business restrictions. But now that vaccination rates among the adult population are rising and lockdowns are expected to end, those payments will be phased out, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Wednesday 29 September.
Approximately 2 million people across the country are now receiving the disaster payments, and the government has spent around $9 billion on them since June. But with Australia moving towards a “live-with-it” strategy, the government is getting ready to withdraw the financial support.
Once a state reaches 70% full vaccination, people receiving payments will have to reapply weekly to get the money. When 80% is reached, the payments will be reduced: from $750 to $450 in the first week, then to $320 in the second week, and after that to zero. Welfare supplements will be similarly reduced.
According to Frydenberg, this tapering off of support is meant to complement the national reopening plan: to get businesses opening again and get people back to work.
“Our announcement is all about backing Australia's plan to reopen, it's about doing our best to bring to an end to these lockdowns so Australians can get their lives back,” he said on Nine Radio. "We can't continue these emergency payments indefinitely, and that's why we're making this announcement today."
The Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales, both of which have a full vaccination level of over 60%, will probably see payments stopped first. Queensland, with the lowest full vaccination rates so far, may eventually be the last state where people can still receive the disaster payments.