Not Enough Left For Beneficiaries In COVID-19 Govt Package – AAAP

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Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling on the Government to do more for people dependent on income support in its response to COVID-19.

“The Government’s package to address the effects of COVID-19 and the recession won’t address the hardship people dependent on income support are already experiencing”, says Brooke Fiafia, Auckland Action Against Poverty Spokesperson.

“It is disappointing to see the Government do the absolute minimum on benefit levels. The increase of $25 dollars to baseline benefits is on the bottom end of what the Welfare Expert Advisory Group was recommended. Most of the people we work with at AAAP are living on a deficit and need hardship grants that are often far over $100 to cover basic expenses.

“If the Government wanted to stop people from having to queue at Work and Income to access food grants they needed to increase baseline benefit levels substantially more and increase the abatement rate threshold so people do not miss out on supplementary assistance as a result of the increase.

“While we welcome the additional funding into health infrastructure we are disappointed that most of the package is going into subsidising employers and tax relief for businesses. The reality is that those most at risk for COVID-19 are also those most dependent on income support. Our homeless and low-income senior citizens will struggle to practise social distancing and self-isolation when their incomes do not cover basic expenses such as rent.

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“The increase in the Winter Energy Payments is temporary and does not contribute to building a fit-for-purpose welfare system, while the In Work Tax Credit will not support households who are relying on income support to cover their costs of living.

“We’re concerned that there has not been a package to address the risk for homeless people in regards to COVID-19. People living in overcrowded homes and rough sleepers are particularly at risk of infection and have no means to self-isolate. We are calling on the Government to increase the supply of state housing to match the people on the waiting list in the short term.

“This is a matter of political courage and will. No one relying on income-support should be having to choose between paying their rent or affording food. If the Government is able to inject billions of dollars into wage subsidies and tax relief for business it also has the resources to ensure our welfare system is future-proof for any public health crisis or financial shocks.”

Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling on the following changes to our welfare system:

– Remove the limit of hardship grants people are eligible for in a period of 6 months before they must show they have exceptional circumstances.

– Increase benefits to liveable levels.

– Remove all benefit sanctions.

– Proactively call all income support recipients to offer hardship grants where required.

– Remove work-testing obligations that mean people lose their benefit if they do not accept an offer of employment.

– Increase the abatement rate threshold to enable people in part time employment to receive income support.

– Increase the income threshold for income support recipients.

– Implement all the Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommendations.