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Thousands of Victorians face battle to keep their homes as COVID-19 disaster payments end


Covid-19 disaster payments end this week, forcing many onto JobSeeker and putting thousands of Victorians at risk of homelessness.

People who lost work due to Covid-19 health orders have been receiving up to $750 per week in disaster payments, but those payments end this week. With the Victorian unemployment rate rising to 5.2% last month, thousands of people are still out of work and relying on JobSeeker to survive.

Renters in almost 70% of Victorian suburbs and towns, who’ve been forced onto JobSeeker by this withdrawal of disaster payments, will be paying more than two-thirds of their income in rent.

Median rents are so high, and income support so low, that in 108 Victorian suburbs people on JobSeeker need to spend more than two-thirds of their income for a one-bedroom flat. There isn’t enough money left over for people to buy food and medicine.

Council to Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith says the low rate of JobSeeker, and the decision to end additional support so early in the economic recovery, will put thousands of Victorians on the precipice of homelessness.

“It is simply impossible for people to afford rent and food when their income support payment is so inadequate that two-thirds goes on rent,” Smith says. “The withdrawal of the Covid disaster payment will mean more Victorians lose their homes.

“The pandemic saw the Federal Government double the amount of money people received to survive without work, but now it has been virtually halved again, and people can’t live on that amount.”

The Melbourne suburb with the lowest median rent, Sunshine, would still require a person on JobSeeker to spend 61% of that very low income on rent. It’s not much cheaper in regional Victoria. People on JobSeeker are spending 65% of their income on rent in Bendigo, 75.5% in Geelong-Newcombe, 64% in Frankston, and 51% in Shepparton.

“It doesn’t matter if you live in Wodonga or Williamstown, if you’re a Victorian relying on JobSeeker to be able to pay the rent, then you’re going to struggle,” Smith says.

“This will only change if the Federal Government raises the rate of income support so people can afford rent in the private market, as well as building more social housing so there are more affordable homes. Without action, we’re going to see more and more people pushed into homelessness.”

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