Premier says coronavirus hardship payments are available, as Victorians continue to work while ill

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says the state's coronavirus numbers are being driven up by people taking too long to get a test and continuing to work and shop while waiting for their test result.

"From 3,810 cases, which are the cases between July 7 and July 21, I'm very unhappy and very sad to have to report that nearly 9 in 10 — or 3,400 cases — did not isolate between when they first felt sick and when they went to get a test," he said.

On top of that, Mr Andrews said 53 per cent of people who tested positive had not self-isolated while waiting for their results.

Mr Andrews said those issues were contributing to workplace transmission.

"Unless we have people who get tested staying at home and isolating until they get their results, then we will not see these numbers come down," he said.

He flagged insecure jobs, where people did not have sick leave and needed to work their shifts to get paid, as an issue contributing to why some people were continuing to work while waiting for test results or while they had symptoms.

The Premier said the Victorian Government was addressing this issue through hardship payments.

What is a hardship payment?

The State Government announced the coronavirus worker support payment about a month ago.

It's a one-off, $1,500 payment for people who'll lose their income if authorities order them to self-quarantine because they have tested positive for coronavirus, or are a close contact of a confirmed case.

"We want a situation where you're no worse off, but every Victorian is much better off, because you're not at work," Mr Andrews said.

He said it was important to support workers who could not access sick leave or work from home.

"It's not about being critical of people for the circumstances they find themselves in, it's about acknowledging the facts and being clear about those," Mr Andrews said.

He said he didn't want Victorians going to work ill because they couldn't afford to stay at home and miss a shift.

Who is eligible?

The hardship payment is available for people who have tested positive and need to quarantine, or have been deemed a close contact of a positive case and need to quarantine.

To be eligible, you also need to have the following circumstances:

  • The order to self-quarantine means you can't work
  • You don't receive any income or leave payments while off work

You also need to have ongoing work, be living in Victoria, and not receiving JobKeeper or "any other forms of Australian Government income support".

But you can be casual, permanent or part-time, or be self-employed.

How are payments made?

Mr Andrews said Victorians could ring a state government hotline, where they would be able to access support and apply for a hardship payment to help them through a quarantine period.

"If you haven't got access to sick leave, if you haven't got access to a payment — so to not go to work would mean you are worse off financially — then you only have one thing to do," he said.

"Call 1800-675-398 — hopefully lots of people make that phone call."

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said it also directly contacted all confirmed coronavirus cases and their close contacts, and did a needs assessment for the payment over the phone.

Who misses out?

Eligibility is strictly defined. You won't get it if you are in the following groups:

  • Are under 17
  • Don't live in Victoria
  • Receive some form of income while self-isolating

What's it like if you're not eligible?

Neville is a casual worker in manufacturing in Melbourne's north who thought he'd be eligible for the payment.

He was told by his employer to stay away from work and get tested for coronavirus when he started feeling unwell.

Because he was a casual worker, he had no sick leave or annual leave to fall back on, and was away from work for six days while his test was processed.

The father of two said he lost about $700 in pay.

"I tried to apply for the hardship payment but because I didn't test positive and I wasn't a close contact of someone who is positive, I couldn't get anything," he said.

"It sucks because I still have bills to pay, I just need enough to get me through.

"I live week to week with my wage."

The Premier said the rules around eligibility could change.

"I'm having a very close look at whether there are further steps we can take to provide further support to people in that interim period between when they are tested and when they get the result," Mr Andrews said.

Why is the Government reminding us about it?

Victoria recorded 484 cases on Wednesday, with the state earlier revealing about 80 per cent of new cases could be attributed to transmission in the workplace.

The federal and state governments introduced a suite of measures over the weekend, including limiting visitors in hospitals and aged care facilities and offering free testing to staff.

Even though the $1,500 payment isn't new, authorities have again reminded people it's there if needed.

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"We have had a number of outbreaks now, particularly in aged care homes and in workplaces, where people have presented whilst they have been infectious, and in some cases when they have very mild symptoms," Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said yesterday.

"So it's important that people do take that opportunity to get tested, and as we have explained, we have made available a $1,500 hardship payment, so that no-one needs to make that difficult decision between putting food on the table and getting tested and staying home and recovering."

By Rachel Clayton (Original ABC Article)

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