Phil and Tammy Milne have noticed how much harder it is to make ends meet on a disability support pension under COVID's increasing living costs but consider themselves among the lucky ones.
Access Australia disability advocate, Mrs Milne, has added her voice to those urging the federal government to extend the $550 per fortnight COVID payment to people who missed out and need it to live such as those on the DSP and carper payment.
"Particularly after the $60 billion JobKeeper mistake the government can review its position," Mrs Milne said.
"They should revisit the payment and extend it to people who missed out in the disability and arts sectors and others, especially before they hand it over to business.
"People need the money in their pocket now and will be spending it to live, which will help stimulate the economy."
A year ago the Milnes lived comfortably on his hospital worker's wage and she worked part-time at a school but the couple had since had their income slashed by about three quarters. Mr Milne can no longer work after an injury and Mrs Milne is on leave because she's more at risk of dying from COVID-19.
The former Devonport councillor has arthrogryposis multiplex congenita and can't walk without aides. "I have worked part-time all my life, which is really uncommon only nine out of 100 people with disabilities earn any income," Mrs Milne said.
"I am totally astounded at the drop in our income...everything (we buy) is budgeted for and everything we get is based on needs first.
"I consider we are the lucky ones.
"The increased cost of living now with COVID hoarding means home branded groceries and drugs that were readily available and made survival that much less painful are simply not on the shelves and the increase in cost has forced people to make choices around which drugs they can afford to take.
"We take a lot of Panadol and used to pay $1.75 for 100 tablets but all we could get was a packet of 24 costing $6. We can relate to the strain caused by out of pocket expenses to see a specialist even $125 is a huge chunk of your payment on a pension.
"I've heard some harrowing tales of hardship from disability pensioners living in poverty while trying to survive during COVID-19."
Braddon Liberal MHR Gavin Pearce said he was concerned for everyone severely impacted by the coronavirus and encouraged anyone who was struggling and did not know where to turn to contact his office.
"I have made numerous representations to the federal minister on issues raised by the disability sector and I will continue to advocate on their behalf," he said.
Tasmanian Labor Senator Helen Polley said too many people were falling through the cracks in the response to the coronavirus crisis and people with disability and carers had been forgotten again.
"The reality is, DSP recipients and carers are experiencing increased costs during this pandemic," she said.
"The government created this disparity. Only the government has the power to fix this and Labor moved a motion in the Senate calling on the government to act."
Senator Polley said for many people with disability and carers, costs were higher at the moment such as higher energy bills from staying at home, extra transport costs from avoiding public transport, grocery home delivery charges, missing out on shopping at the markets for specials, and extra health costs.
A Social Services Department spokesperson said the coronavirus supplement was a temporary measure for job seekers in recognition that the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic would directly impede people's ability to find and retain paid employment over coming months.
"The DSP and Carer Payment are long term payments which are paid at the highest rate of support in the system at $930 a fortnight - significantly higher than the regular JobSeeker base rate - because recipients are not expected to work to support themselves due to their disability or caring responsibilities.
"DSP and Carer Payment recipients should have already received the first $750 Economic Support Payment, and they will also receive the second $750 Economic Support Payment in July which is not provided to those people receiving the coronavirus supplement.
"In addition, they have access to the Pensioner Concession Card which provides access to more concessions than the Health Care Card that people on JobSeeker payment have.
"The government announced a $90.7 million support package to help Australians with a disability with employment and other support services including a dedicated phone line to provide accessible information, counselling and outreach services to assist people with disability.
"The government has also ensured people with a disability have access to Personal Protective Equipment including allocating an additional 500,000 masks to the disability sector."
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