Just one month after the coronavirus JobSeeker supplement was slashed by $300, Marina Chapman, 45, is already beginning to stress about paying her bills.
Ms Chapman, who is the Unemployed Workers Union Tasmanian secretary, has been on welfare on and off for the past 20 years.
Before the pandemic she said she was barely scraping by and now she fears she will return to that life.
"I thought I was prepaid for it because I knew it was going stay at $550 for long," Ms Chapman said. "It does bring the anxiety back and the stress of how are we going to pay for things that crop up in the future."
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The $550 coronavirus supplement was the first time the JobSeeker rate had been raised in decades and effectively took the payment up to $1100 per fortnight.
Ms Chapman said the supplement had been a godsend, but now through her role with the UWU she was hearing stories of people struggling to get by. She said people had began to stress about paying bills and eating properly since the supplement was cut.
"People in the rental market are back to that old arguement of 'well I have to pay for a roof over my head so I'm now going to have to go back to a really sh** diet'," Ms Chapman said.
"There are people now facing the prospect of having to cut back how many meals they eat in a week, which is obscene to me."
Starting Point Neighbourhood House coordinator Julie Moy said in the past month they had seen more people looking to access their emergency relief. The house offers food on a daily basis as well as pre-cooked meals which can be purchased for a low price.
Ms Moy said since the supplement had been cut back to $250, the house had seen regulars return who had not been visiting while on the increased payment. She said at the start of the pandemic they saw less people coming in for food relief when they had the larger supplement.
"Over the past few weeks we have had more of our regular customers come back," Ms Moy said. "We're probably getting two or three calls a day [with people seeking for relief]."
Ms Moy said there was a correlation between the number of people coming in and the level of the supplement. "We are seeing a marked increase in people needing assistance," she said.
The supplement is set to end at the end of this year, but in an interview earlier this month Prime Minister Scott Morrison alluded to the fact that it could be extended. He said the government would make a decision closer to the December 31 date.
When discussing the JobSeeker rate with The Examiner in October, Bass Liberal MHR Bridget Archer said she would not support a return to pre-covid levels, but that the current rate might be too high.
She said the rate was not the only thing that needed to be discussed pointing to mutual obligations and the movement of JobSeeker services online.
A decision on whether or not to extend supplement is expected December 1.
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