Media release: Federal Government’s cruel cuts mean an unhappy New Year for over 28,000 Canberrans

14 December 2020

As one of the last acts of the 2020 Parliament, the Federal Government last week cut the income of over 28,000 Canberrans by $100 per fortnight from 1 January 2021.
The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today condemned this latest cut to the Coronavirus Supplement which will push thousands of Canberrans deeper into poverty, leaving them with no certainty about the future of payment after the end of March.
ACTCOSS Chief Executive Officer Dr Emma Campbell said: “The latest figures from the Commonwealth Department of Social Services tell us that over 28,000 Canberrans are receiving Commonwealth income support payments that include the Coronavirus Supplement.
“On Friday, the Federal Parliament passed a cut which will reduce this payment by $100 per fortnight to $150 from 1 January 2021 until 31 March 2021.
“To make matters worse, the Government has not ruled out sending people looking for work back to the old, brutal Newstart rate of just $40 a day in March.
“When first introduced in April, the Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per fortnight lifted thousands of Canberrans out of poverty and protected thousands more from experiencing poverty.
“When the supplement was reduced by $300 per fortnight in September, the rate of JobSeeker and other eligible income support payments fell back below below the poverty line.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was estimated that almost 30,000 people in the ACT were living below the poverty line. Since the September cut, the number of Canberrans in poverty is estimated to have increased to approximately 38,000 people.
“Reducing the Coronavirus Supplement by another $100 per fortnight will widen and deepen poverty in the ACT, pushing more Canberrans much further below the poverty line.
“This cruel New Year cut will see payments drop by as much as $147 per week below the poverty line for a young Canberran looking for work while on Youth Allowance, and by as much as $68 per week below the poverty line for a single parent on JobSeeker.
“Cutting income support is a cruel and damaging decision. For low-income households, the Christmas and New Year period can be a particularly challenging and financially stressful time.
“From 1 January they will have just $50 a day to cover housing, food, transport, and bills. We need a permanent, adequate rate of income support that keeps Canberrans out of poverty and that allows them to cover the basics and rebuild their lives in 2021,” Dr Campbell said.
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.
For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.

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