The Senate community affairs committee is looking at a government bill to extend the JobSeeker temporary coronavirus supplement – at a lower rate – until the end of March.
The support payment for the jobless was increased by $550 a fortnight at the start of the pandemic, but it has shrunk to $250.
Job seekers can earn $300 a fortnight without payments being affected.
Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said 1.5 million people are looking for work and need support to get back on their feet.
“These cuts will plunge hundreds of thousands of Australians – and over a million children – into poverty,” she said.
The government hasn’t decided about the payment’s long-term rate.
Chambers said the JobSeeker rate should be permanently lifted above the poverty line.
“People will be recovering from this pandemic for months and years to come. They need certainty. That means a permanent increase, not more cuts,” she said.
The Australian Council of Social Service said in its submission to the inquiry the permanent rate should be at least $67 a day.
“This bill will … leave someone on JobSeeker with just $51 per day,” ACOSS said.
“This is insufficient to ensure people can afford food, housing, transport, clothing, healthcare and other expenses.”
If the government does not act, JobSeeker will revert to its pre-COVID rate of $40 a day and the Youth Allowance will be $33 a day.
“This festive period is going to be a really hard one for millions, with record-high unemployment,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.
“As we rebuild from the crisis, we can’t turn our back on those who are at risk of being left behind.”
ACOSS also wants an independent Social Security Commission set up to determine the adequacy of income support payments.
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