Governments must push utilities companies to defer account payments, pressure banks to restructure or defer financial repayments for individuals and urge landlords to renegotiate rents and delay evictions to protect the most vulnerable, Tasmania's peak body for community services says.
TasCOSS joined a range of social service organisations in signing a joint letter this week from the Consumer Action Law Centre urging measures to ensure the disadvantaged are protected as responses to the spread of the coronavirus are ramped up.
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More than 120,000 Tasmanians are living precariously due to housing insecurity, poor health and a lack of opportunities to participate socially and economically - a situation that is expected to intensify.
TasCOSS acting chief executive officer Simone Zell said the "necessary responses" to COVID-19 were likely to magnify pre-existing inequalities.
"In times of crisis we must prioritise the essential services the people of Tasmania rely on and make certain those who need support from community services are able to access what they need to stay healthy, safe and supported," she said.
"This means taking steps such as that announced by the state government this week to bolster emergency relief capacity to meet expected increased need when those in precarious employment are hit by job losses and business closures.
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"Our local, state and federal governments can make the decision now to support our people and communities by waiving penalties for late payments and putting moratoriums on coercive debt collection measures or disconnection from utilities."
In its $420 million stimulus package, the Tasmanian Government included $1 million in emergency accommodation funding, $1 million to frontline services for emergency relief and one-off payments of $250 for low income and casual workers, and $1000 for families.
Minister for Housing and Human Services Roger Jaensch said the commitments were "uncapped", and assistance to low income and casual workers required to self-quarantine was in addition to Commonwealth support.