Thousands of Canberrans had their JobKeeper supplements cut yesterday (4 January) as the Commonwealth Government reduced the payments by $200 to $1000 a fortnight.
JobSeeker was also reduced by $100 per fortnight from 1 January.
In the ACT, the changes to both supplements will affect more than 9,000 businesses using JobKeeper and 28,000 Canberrans on JobSeeker and other income support payments that include the Coronavirus Supplement, according to data from the Federal Treasury and the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) respectively.
“While many of us are lucky enough to have a job to return to after the holiday break, there are thousands of Canberrans who are unable to find work and cannot cover basic expenses like food and housing,” ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said.
“People receiving JobSeeker come from all walks of life. They have already been devastated by the loss of their job. The callous level of income support will force those looking for work into financial destitution.
“This level of payment places thousands of Canberrans and their families well below the poverty line. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, this is unacceptable.”
Both rates were simultaneously reduced and extended in September last year, but are scheduled to end in late March 2021.
The reductions have come as Australian Bureau of Statistics data revealed that the national unemployment rate fell to 6.8 per cent in November.
Unemployment increased in the ACT to 4 per cent while underemployment dropped almost two points to 5.7 per cent.
Community organisations, advocates and Chief Minister Andrew Barr have called on the Federal Government to permanently raise the rate of the unemployment benefit (formerly NewStart), which sat at roughly $40 a day prior to the pandemic.
“We know that people on the higher level of JobSeeker were spending their more adequate incomes on the basics, in local shops and business, helping to keep others in jobs,” Dr Campbell said.
“2020 ironically offered a glimpse of a more caring way to support those without work when the Coronavirus supplement helped lift millions of people and their children out of poverty virtually overnight.
“We hope politicians will reconsider the impacts of these decisions on the most vulnerable Australians and implement a permanent rise to these payments.”