The COVID-19 recession, rising unemployment, reductions in working hours and incomes have left many people in NSW under increased financial pressure. Increasing unemployment due to the COVID-19 recession follows years of weak economic growth and a weak labour market.
The recession comes at a difficult time for many, with more than 880,000 people experiencing significant disadvantage prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The recession is likely to significantly increase the financial hardship faced by households, 26% of which were already reporting difficulties paying their bills on time in 2019.
While JobSeeker and JobKeeper have ameliorated some of the worst impacts of the recession, these supports are temporary. As they are phased out many people will be exposed to significant financial hardship.
What's in the 2020-21 Budget
- $9 million in 2020-21 for OzHarvest and Foodbank to provide support for people experiencing food insecurity, including food insecurity stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- $0.7 million for the Aboriginal Food Security Program to support Aboriginal Affairs in partnership with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council to provide essential supplies to COVID-19 impacted Aboriginal communities.
- $188.5 million ($754.5 million over four years) to continue water rebates to low income households.
- $78.5 million ($314 million over four years) to continue pensioner rate concessions to assist with the cost of living.
- $500 million in 2020-21 to provide each adult in NSW access to $100 through four $25 vouchers for dining and entertainment as part of the Out and About voucher scheme.
The NSW Budget does not provide any further cost of living relief in addition to that provided by existing concessions and assistance programs.
What does it mean for those doing it tough?
This Budget does not provide additional measures to address cost of living pressures faced by people experiencing lower incomes from reduced working hours or unemployment.
Existing concessions for water, energy and council rates will continue to provide some cost of living relief for people, where they are eligible and aware of programs.
What is needed?
While the additional support for food relief and ongoing commitment to existing concessions is welcome, further action is needed to reduce the cost of essentials for households. Improving energy efficiency of public and community housing and funding community organisations to assist vulnerable renters to invest in efficiency should be pursued to alleviate cost pressures.
Investments should be made in improving access to transport for vulnerable people by extending the $2.50 per day Opal Gold and Regional Excursion Daily pensioner transport fares to JobSeeker recipients. Long-term, flexible funding should be introduced for the community transport program to provide support and access to transport for vulnerable people.