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Coronavirus in Ballarat: Disability advocates call for Job Seeker supplement extension

Disability advocates are "steeling themselves" for an "avalanche" of support requests when the federal government's JobSeeker payment is cut at the end of September.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government added a $550 supplement to its JobSeeker payment, bringing it to about $1150 per fortnight for most recipients, to support people who are out of work, unable to work, and unable to receive the JobKeeper payment. But there are fears a "snapback" to the original payment level would leave the most vulnerable people without support, as the pandemic crisis shows no sign of slowing.

According to federal Ballarat MP Catherine King, a "snapback" to the original payment levels would cut about $6 million per fortnight out of the Ballarat economy.

"Millions of out-of-work Australians are anxious about what level of support will be available to them at the end of September," she said in a media release.

"It defies reality that the Prime Minister believes that he can snapback JobSeeker when there are nowhere near enough jobs for the people who need them.

"There are 389,200 Australians on unemployment payments in Victoria, but only 28,700 job vacancies, as at May. This means there are 13 Australians out of work for every one job vacancy in Victoria."

Grampians DisAbility Advocacy executive officer Debbie Verdon said the organisation already had long waiting lists for people looking for help, and cutting the coronavirus supplement would kick them while they were down.

"A lot of people who sit on the former NewStart payment (now JobSeeker) are people with a disability, and they come to us and ask for help with getting the Disability Support Pension because it's quite a process," she said.

"We are expecting an avalanche of people coming to us for assistance to get the DSP after JobSeeker (is reduced) - NewStart (without the supplement) is not liveable.

"We're steeling ourselves for requests for help, and we already have waiting lists, we're already operating at capacity with waitlists in Ballarat.

"It really is concerning us."

The calls follow a letter from the Ballarat business community sent to the Prime Minister asking for an extension to the JobKeeper program, with many employers and employees fearing what will happen when the payment scheme ends on September 31.

An update on the plans is expected on July 23.

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