New people to get lockdown payment

More people in NSW will be eligible for an emergency Covid-19 payment as the state grapples with a worrying outbreak of the virus.

The state’s lockdown was extended for another week on Wednesday after it recorded its 15th consecutive double-digit increase as the state struggled to bring the highly-infectious Delta variant under control.

The federal government in June confirmed a new weekly $325 or $500 emergency payment for some individuals living in Covid-19 hot spots lasting over a week, though recipients were obligated to prove they had less than $10,000 worth of assets – like a car – and cash savings.

But making his first public appearance since Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that liquid assets requirement would be waived when lockdowns entered a third week.

“It doesn’t matter what funds you’ve got available to you in your bank account or what you can readily convert to cash,” Mr Morrison said.

People who work 20 hours or more get the $500 payment, while people who work less than that receive the smaller sum. The support was available online via the Services Australia website.

Australian residents aged 17 or over are eligible, but need to prove they have lost work or income as a result of the virus.

Recipients also need to have “insufficient” leave entitlements, excluding annual leave, and cannot not be on any form of income support payment or the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.

Couples who live together can apply individually.

Mr Morrison warned the “shifting sands” in NSW had implications for the national economy, and flagged discussions over further support if the crisis worsened.

“It’s absolutely imperative that in this phase we’re in now, the suppression phase, that we work together to ensure that we can suppress this latest outbreak as effectively as we possibly can,” he said.

“We will work with the NSW government to give effect to that, both economically and from a health point of view.”

The announcement came after the Prime Minister and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg held a “lengthy meeting” with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet on Wednesday to discuss support for the embattled state.

Another 300,000 extra vaccine doses, half Pfizer and half AstraZeneca, will be brought forward for the state, particularly targeting areas with high infection rates.

Mr Morrison said he “understood” the frustrations associated with being locked down, but issued a warning to his fellow Sydneysiders after a series of breaches over the past week.

“The virus doesn’t move by itself, it moves from person to person. People carry it from one to another,” he said.

Mr Morrison called for all eligible Australians to come forward to get vaccinated, urging the public not to succumb to pandemic fatigue.

“I know people are getting tired. I know they’re getting frustrated … (But) now is not the time to give in to that frustration,” he said.

The support was initially unveiled in June after Victoria’s lockdown was extended to 14 days, with the federal government covering the cost of payments to individuals, and the states covering those to businesses.

Mr Morrison said the elongated lockdown in NSW had forced the federal government’s hand.

“You’ve got to respond to the evidence and the evidence is: there’ll be a need for further support, because this is going longer in Sydney than it went in Melbourne,” Mr Morrison said.

The Prime Minister said state and territory budgets were in a “stronger position” than that of the Commonwealth, which had already spent $27b on Covid-19 health support alone.

“You all understand what the impact of that has been on the Commonwealth budget. It’s been significant, and it’s going to be significant for a long time to come,” he said.

Mr Frydenberg had earlier rejected calls from the NSW state government to reboot its JobKeeper wage subsidy, which expired at the end of March.

Labor treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers insisted a more efficient vaccine rollout would have negated the need for lockdowns, which had “devastating consequences” for businesses.

“Whether it’s JobKeeper or some other kinds of support, Scott Morrison has left the people of Sydney in particular hanging,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“If only they could roll out the vaccines as quickly as they’ve ruled out help for people doing it tough as a consequence of the Prime Minister’s own failures.”

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