There are calls for governments to provide more financial support to vulnerable Victorians during the current lockdown, with increasing numbers of people experiencing financial hardship.
The COVID pandemic has resulted in job losses and increasing numbers of people finding themselves homeless across the state, including in Ballarat.
While the federal government is offering COVID-19 Disaster Payments, they are not available to the 418,000 Victorians on income support payments.
This is because the criteria for the payments, announced on Tuesday, excludes anyone registered with Centrelink for income support - including JobSeeker and parenting payments.
The amount payable is $375 per week of lockdown for individuals who have lost between 8 hours and less than 20 hours or up to $600 per week if they have lost 20 or more hours of work.
It has led Uniting Vic Tas to express concern that people on low incomes and on income support were being left behind.
"We understand the need to extend Victoria's lockdown to contain the latest COVID-19 outbreak but we know that lockdowns always hit our most vulnerable the hardest, including those on income support payments," Uniting Vic Tas chief executive, Bronwyn Pike, said.
"We can't afford to let these people slip further into poverty,."
She explained that single mothers, older women, students, people with disability and migrants were just some of the people who were currently being excluded from the payment, simply because they were receiving income support payments.
"We support the Disaster Payment because many have been stood down or lost hours, but we're concerned those who have lost their jobs over the past 18 months and are relying on income support are being left out.
"The current Jobseeker rate is $315 a week, just over half the rate of the Disaster Payment for people working more than 20 hours a week," Ms Pike explained.
She said this was nowhere near enough for people to pay for necessities and bills, especially in winter.
"The normal costs of living don't disappear during lockdown. There's still rent to pay, food to put on the table and those rising winter energy bills and that's why we believe our most vulnerable need this extra support from both the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments right now."
In addition to extra support from the federal government, Ms Pike also urged the Victorian government to provide all health care, pension and concession card holders with immediate $100 energy rebates.
With freezing conditions this winter, it is believed rebates would help vulnerable households to offset some of the impact of winter energy bill shock in coming months.
"We support the current energy rebates and support provided by the Government which help our most vulnerable offset the increasing cost of energy," Uniting Vic.Tas senior manager energy and financial literacy program, Matt Cairns, said.
"However, with this extended lockdown, everyone at home, and hundreds of thousands of Victorians relying on income support, we believe a further one-off $100 energy rebate is urgently needed to reduce some of the impact of winter energy bill shock, especially for our most vulnerable."
A National Recovery and Resilience Agency spokesperson said the federal government was committed to ensuring additional support was available for people in all states affected by the current lockdown, but did not respond to questions about if it would consider changing the criteria for the disaster payment.
A spokesperson from the state government said it had worked with the Commonwealth to secure funding for more people.
Last year it announced a $250 Power Saving Bonus for Victoria's most vulnerable households, including those with concession cards and who receive Centrelink payments.
With almost one in three households eligible, between 8000 and 10,000 applications are being processed each week, but it can only be claimed once.
It also has the Utility Relief Grant Scheme, which low-income households experiencing hardship and who have overdue utility bills able to claim up to $1950 for electricity, gas and water bills.
Anyone who is struggling to pay their bills should reach out to their energy retailer, the spokesperson said. By law, they must help, by offering all relevant concessions, by deferring payment or putting a payment plan in place.
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