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Boosted Centrelink pandemic payments briefly lifted recipients out of poverty: report

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Emergency pandemic welfare money suddenly lifted some of the poorest people in Melbourne out of poverty, according to new research – but they began slipping back when payments were reduced.

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The research was led by economics professor Dr David Hayward from by RMIT University, and the Victorian Council of Social Service.

But the researchers found people began to slip back to living below the poverty line when payments started winding back in late September.

The chief executive of VCOSS, Emma King, says the study showed that for a brief few months, people living in poverty could pay their bills and buy healthy food.

“It proves ending poverty isn’t a pipe dream, it’s achievable,” she said.

The federal government announced a slate of nationwide household income support measures worth $27.5 billion in March.

The researchers tracked welfare recipients in Melbourne from the start of March to the end of October, during one of the world’s harshest lockdowns.

Households where both adults are unemployed were among those groups that benefited the most during this period, thanks to an extra $275 in welfare payments.

These households went from a combined income 20 per cent below the poverty line before the pandemic, to suddenly 65 per cent above it.

Students on Austudy payments also went from 48 per cent below the poverty line, to 13 per cent above it, thanks to the extra $275.

But the researchers predicted that by January, households where both adults are unemployed will be subsisting just above the poverty line, while students on Abstudy will be living 30 per cent below it.

-AAP

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