29 Aug 2020

Covid income relief payment recipients fare better than those on the dole, survey finds

1:35 pm on 29 August 2020

People on the 12-week Covid income relief payment are faring better than those on the benefit, new survey data shows.

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The University of Auckland, Child Poverty Action Group, Auckland Action Against Poverty and FIRST Union are collaborating on the survey to compare the experiences of people receiving different types of income support.

The Covid income relief payment provides $490 a week for people who have lost full-time work because of the pandemic, whereas some people on the jobseeker benefit get just $250.

University of Auckland sociologist Louise Humpage said early findings suggest the $25 a week increase to benefits announced by the government in March is making little or no difference to low income households.

They did get some benefit from the doubling of the winter energy payment, but that is only a temporary initiative.

But people on the higher Covid income relief payment reported fewer occasions where they have been unable to meet basic costs.

"They seem to have reserves from elsewhere," Humpage said.

"We asked questions about, 'do you have passive income?', 'do you have a house that you own?', and at present, they seem to be buffered by those extra resources."

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However, Humpage said those people were also reporting higher levels of financial worry and stress.

"They had quite high incomes before the lockdown, they've now suddenly had to experience unemployment and they're reporting more mental stress, more financial worry, and talking about stigma and shame," she said.

If they still had not found work before the 12-week payment runs out, Humpage said that financial stress and ability to cover basic costs was likely to worsen if they had to go on to the lower-paying benefit.

Humpage said the early findings suggested that benefit levels need to rise.

"I think there is general consensus that benefits are too low at present and I think this Covid-19 payment is a reflection that it's actually too low for most people."

The survey is open until 10 September and the researchers want to hear from more people who are receiving the income relief payment.

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