The federal government will pay a “disaster payment” of $1,500 to those living in Melbourne if they are required to self-isolate but do not have adequate sick leave to cover the fortnight isolation period.
Speaking on Monday afternoon (3 August), Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the federal government was making available a $1,500 payment to those who are required to self-isolate due to the coronavirus pandemic but do not have adequate sick leave.
The payment, which will be made available via a hotline number, is largely targeted to cover those living in Victoria who are on short-term visas and can be accessed multiple times, if those affected are required to self-isolate for 14 days on more than one occasion.
Announcing the new payments, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “Earlier this year, when we were confronting the bushfires, we made a number of additional disaster payments, particularly for children and families affected by bushfires. What we’re dealing with here is a disaster. And we need to respond on the basis of the way we provide support in the midst of disaster. This pandemic is a disaster. And we need a disaster payment when it comes for people who have to isolate for a period of 14 days, through no fault of their own. Regardless of what job they’re in, and employment they’re in, they need that support,” he said.
“So, what we’ll be putting in place is, for those who have no sick leave available to them, they will be eligible for a $1,500 payment for the fortnight... Those payments are principally made to those who are on short-term visas. So, those who are not residents of Australia, permanent residents or citizens of Australia,” he said
“We will make sure that everyone else who finds themselves in this situation and they don’t have the leave available to them through their sick leave, because it has been exhausted, will get a $1,500 payment for that fortnight.”
Mr Morrison suggested that those affected Victorians will be able to access the payment from Wednesday (however, the launch of the hotline will be confirmed in due course), through the Disaster Recovery Payment number: 180 22 66.
“They’ll be able to make their application over the phone, which they can do for other disaster type payments, and that should be turned around fairly quickly. That means that those who need to self-isolate as a result of an instruction by a public health officer, there is no economic reason for you to go to work,” he said.
The announcement of the new disaster payment came after the Victorian state government declared it a state of disaster.
As such, the payment will only be available to those in Victoria; however, it may become available to workers in other parts of Australia should a disaster be declared in those locations.
Victoria calls for businesses to close
On Sunday evening (2 August), metropolitan Melbourne entered into stage 4 restrictions, bringing in a curfew from 8pm to 5am, with people only allowed to leave their house for work and essential healthcare or safety reasons.
The state also declared a state of disaster to deal with the growing cases of coronavirus in its capital city and surrounds. A state of disaster can be called when there is an emergency that “constitutes or is likely to constitute a significant and widespread danger to life or property in Victoria” and brings into being broader enforcement powers to police and emergency services and gives the state the ability to suspend Acts of Parliament.
Yesterday (3 August), the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, announced new restrictions that would see thousands of businesses close their doors in metropolitan Melbourne to stop the spread of the virus in the city, after 429 new cases were confirmed and 13 people died overnight.
Under the restrictions, workplaces in metropolitan Melbourne are to close for a period of six weeks from 11.59pm on Wednesday (5 August) unless the workplace is part of a permitted industry (see more below).
All Victorians will be required to work from home, except where this is not practicable.
Sole operators can continue to operate, as long as they do not have contact with the public or with people other than those persons living in their primary household.
Supermarkets, grocery stores, bottle shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, news agencies, post offices – plus everyone involved in frontline response – will continue to operate.
Bank branches will also be permitted to remain open under the new restrictions.
Retail stores will be permitted to operate contactless “click and collect” and delivery services with strict safety protocols in place, and hardware stores can remain open onsite but for tradespeople only.
Some industries, such as construction and meat and seafood processing and distribution, may continue to operate with limited personnel and under restricted operations (for example: wearing extra PPE, staggering shifts, staggering breaks, health declarations and providing more support for sick workers to ensure they stay home).
Mr Andrews commented: “Whether it’s our food production, waste collection or supply chain logistics, we need some things to continue – but they’ve got do so safely.
“All open businesses and services will have until 11:59pm Friday, 7 August to enact a COVID Safe Plan focused on safety, prevention and response in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace – because beating this virus requires a rapid response wherever it rears its head.”
Mr Andrews advised that any businesses and industries which fall into “grey areas” can discuss their case with the dedicated Industry Coordination Centre within the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.
He concluded: “I understand this will have real and heavy consequences for a number of businesses, workers and their families. We’ll do everything we can to lighten that load.
“For those businesses that suffer significant losses or need to close as a result of the current restrictions, we will provide support through our expanded Business Support Fund.
“Businesses in regional Victoria can apply for a $5,000 grant, while those in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire can apply for up to $10,000 in recognition of spending longer under restrictions.
“Honestly, this will be an imperfect process.
“The decision of which column to put millions of Victorian jobs – millions of Victorian workers – could never be clear cut.
“And, as much as we’d like one, there is no playbook when it comes to a pandemic.
“But what is clear is that if we don’t do this now, if this doesn’t work, then we’ll need a much longer list of complete shutdowns.”
The Premier conceded that it was “hard to imagine what a stage 5 might look like”, but noted that “it would radically change the way people live. Not just rules on when and where you can go shopping, but restrictions on going shopping at all”.
He said: “This will be hard. It’ll be frustrating. It’ll be confusing. For a lot of workers and their families, it’ll be heartbreaking.
“But the only way to get people back to work and businesses back open is by making these tough decisions – and by Victorians abiding by them.
“We have to make this work.
“Lives and livelihoods are counting on it.”
You can download the full list of impacted businesses here.
[Related: Vic unveils $150m homelessness package]
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Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.