With both New South Wales and Victoria enduring lockdowns again, and with fears both will extend beyond their current timeframes, calls are increasing for the Federal Government to bring back its JobKeeper payment.
Currently workers who have lost hours are entitled to payments through the COVID Disaster Payment Fund, depending on how much time they have lost, but commentators claim this payment is not enough to survive extended lockdowns.
Economist Chris Richardson, a partner at Deloitte Access Economics, told The Australian that while the country is experienced in bringing outbreaks under control through lockdowns, governments would need to step up their support, depending on how long this goes on.
Richardson said: “If we are a handful of weeks away from NSW being back out of restrictions, and if Victoria succeeds with its short and sharp lockdown, then what we have in terms of commonwealth support is fine. But if we do end up in rolling lockdowns, then JobKeeper, modified as necessary, should come back into the frame.”
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA), the union covering retail, fast food and warehouse workers, agrees saying the existing payments are not enough for people to be able to pay rent and eat.
“The reality is that Sydney is experiencing this ongoing lockdown because the Federal Government has failed to get our quarantine system and vaccination program right,” SDA NSW/ACT Secretary Bernie Smith said.
“Now this Government is leaving stood down workers and small businesses in the lurch by doing everything they can to avoid to reinstating JobKeeper.
“We saw how successful JobKeeper was in getting us through lockdowns in 2020 with most workers receiving enough money to get by, and businesses having the security they need.
“JobKeeper was essential in keeping workers, businesses and the economy on its feet then. Now it’s time to bring it back.
“The COVID-19 disaster payment simply isn’t good enough.”
Smith also called on the Government to give retail workers priority access to the vaccine.
“Eighty per cent of exposure sites are shops or shopping centres,” Smith said. “Retail workers serving the community in those shops need to feel safe, they need vaccine access.”
He added: “Retail workers have done an incredible job on the frontline of the pandemic, working day in and day out to keep up an essential service, and they need to be protected from the real threat of COVID-19 exposure.”