Thursday, December 9

8,500 More Beneficiaries Since Delta Outbreak Start, Figures Show

Since the start of the Delta outbreak, 8,500 more people have benefited, figures from the Ministry of Social Development show.

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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

While the job loss has not been as severe as the first shutdown in March last year, many thousands of whānau are still struggling to make ends meet as Covid-19 restrictions remain in place.

Before the first positive case was detected in August, Infometrics chief economist Brad Olsen said the job market was heating up.

“The jobs held kept increasing, more people in all industries were starting to get a little more work,” he said.

“We also saw much better unemployment rates before the close, but also a much better underutilization rate. More Kiwis were getting jobs, and those Kiwis who wanted to work a little more, a few more hours a week, for example, they they were getting that job too. “

But returning to the confinement had been an obstacle, Olsen said.

“We know that those more casual workers, that precarious workforce in general, still find it incredibly difficult during the periods of higher alertness and that also flows a lot into their whānau know.

“We know, for example, that food subsidies increased 36 percent during the first six weeks of the shutdown compared to the previous six weeks.”

Before the return to alert level 4 in August, the number of people in the benefit had steadily decreased.

As of early October, there were more than 8,500 people receiving government support payments, compared to the week before the outbreak was discovered.

Most of that increase is due to people switching to job seeker support, half of them in Auckland.

While the earnings numbers have increased, it is still not as dramatic as the increase seen during the first close of last year.

The woman stands in front of the shelves with boxes and paper bags full of food.

Helen Robinson
Photo: RNZ Insight / Sarah Robson

But Auckland City missionary Helen Robinson said lockdowns were difficult for low-income whānau.

When people had to stay home and hold on to their bubbles, they couldn’t tap into their usual support networks, he said.

“You can go to your grandmother’s house for dinner one night a week or the after-school program has afternoon tea, so there’s food there.

“All of those processes get really very, very difficult and in a lockdown reality, what was a minimal income that was stretched anyway, it really was stretched too much.”

And the longer the lockdown lasted, the harder it would be for low-income families to recover, Robinson said.

“If you think of people who are contractors or people who do odd jobs, or a family maybe, or an extended family that depended on an income that has been significantly reduced.

“It takes some time to recoup the loss, and the longer we are at level four and level three, the extent of that loss becomes more and more significant.”

A $ 20 benefit increase, announced in the May budget, went into effect in early July.

For single mother Jayden, it had been a great help.

“That could go to something essential, like food, energy, especially during the confinement, just because families are at home a lot, so things are used more often than they would if we weren’t locked up.”

But Olsen said that for others, that increase would have been eaten up by inflation.

“That means multiple households have to pay a lot more for all the goods and services they might be receiving. The rents, for example, have probably alone brought out that extra $ 20.”

But this is not just about an increase in rents.

“Several households face substantially higher fuel costs and higher food costs, higher clothing costs. Everything is starting to rise and rise.”

The spokeswoman for the Child Poverty Action Group, Janet McAllister, said that to alleviate some of the pressure that families are subjected to, the government should have advanced the benefit increases for next April.

“They would still have been inappropriate, but it would have been something and they didn’t,” he said.

“If you don’t have enough, you don’t have enough and the government should have foreseen that and made sure there was enough for the communities to weather the storm of confinement without having to beg for food.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has noted that greater support for families in difficult situations is being considered.

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