Coronavirus outbreaks have plunged more than half of Australia into lockdown, triggering calls for more federal support.
The Morrison government is resisting pressure to restore JobKeeper wage subsidies with at least 13.5 million people under heavy restrictions in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
Instead, people who lose their jobs at designated hotspots can access weekly payments of between $ 375 and $ 600 when lockdowns extend beyond seven days.
Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers said national wage subsidies, which initially paid out $ 1,500 per fortnight before being cut, have proven to be effective.
“JobKeeper had its problems, but it also had some very important features that the government stupidly threw in the trash,” he told Sky News.
“As time goes on and we have these blockages, it really looks like an incredibly stupid decision to end JobKeeper and replace it with something inferior.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said disaster payments were above the $ 1,000 biweekly rate JobKeeper ended.
“The money is actually coming out faster than it would have with JobKeeper,” Mr. Hunt said.
In New South Wales, 388,000 applications worth $ 186 million were approved in the outbreak that infected 1,418 people in the past month.
The Victorians will become eligible on Friday when the current lockdown enters its second week.
South Australian Prime Minister Steven Marshall is confident that aid will be made available to his state despite the restrictions planned for the first seven days.
His state joined Victoria – where there were nine new cases – and Sydney and surrounding areas on lockdown on Tuesday night.
NSW recorded 78 new local infections, while SA recorded five.
The borders closed forcefully with Victoria, but banning travel from NSW and other states closing to SA.
The Australian Council for Social Services estimates that 800,000 welfare recipients who care for 400,000 children have been excluded from disaster payments.
ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie is urging state and federal leaders to fill the void ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Friday.
She described the system as a “mess” that created two levels between people receiving Centrelink payments and other workers.
“The people on social security are the people with the lowest incomes, the most financially vulnerable and they have been completely excluded from these disaster payment arrangements,” she told ABC radio.
“We need to make sure everyone has enough income support if they are affected by the loss of jobs, to keep their heads above water.”