National ask if Government's concerned 'two-tier' welfare will increase racial inequality

National is calling the Government's welfare scheme that gives $490 a week for people with Covid-19 related job losses, "ill-targeted and provides the most support to those who need it the least". 

Source: Te Karere

The $570 million scheme, called the Covid Income Relief Payment, lasts for 12 weeks, will not be taxed and gives $490 a week to those who lost full-time work since March 1, and $250 for part-time workers. 

Rates for the job seeker benefit sit between $175 (single, 18-19 years, at home) to $375.17 for a sole parent. A single person over 25 gets $250 a week. 

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Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw says everybody needs support, including Kiwis already receiving benefits. Source: Breakfast

National’s social development spokesperson Louise Upston said the scheme's announcement was a "poorly targeted attempt to cover for the fact that jobs haven’t been saved". 

"It cannot be right that someone with a $29,000 redundancy package and a partner earning $100,000 a year receives more financial support from the taxpayer than a single mum who lost their job in December and is now living in a motel, or a New Zealander with a long term disability," Ms Upston said. 

"Instead of favouring one group of jobless over another, we believe that everyone should get the support they need to put food on their table and a roof over their head."

Today in Parliament, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni described the scheme as a "short-term, one-off initiative in response to unprecedented circumstances, similar to the response following the Canterbury earthquakes".

Govt announces temporary $490 per week payment for Kiwis unemployed due to Covid-19

"There is also further work under way to explore unemployment insurance schemes."

"Alongside this, we remain committed to overhauling the welfare system and have already implemented systematic, long-term changes like increasing main benefit rates and indexing main benefits to wages for the first time in New Zealand's history."

On March 15, benefit rates increased by $25 a week as part of a $2.8 billion package from the beginning of April. 

Ms Upston asked if Ms Sepuloni was aware "those eligible for this new payment are more likely to be New Zealand European than the other job seekers"?

"Is she concerned that making a two-tier welfare system permanent will increase racial inequality in the welfare system?"

Ms Sepuloni said, "certainly for me and this side of the House, we're all about diversity, and we're all about making sure that all New Zealanders are looked after". 

"The fact is that the temporary relief income that we're putting in place is temporary and it is similar to what was put in place after the Canterbury earthquakes.

"We are exploring whether this is the type of thing that we might want to keep as part of our offering through the welfare system, but that is an exploration; we haven't finished that work.

"On our confidence and supply agreement partner, the Green Party, they are very clear: they want us to move as quickly as possible with respect to the overhaul. I respect them for that absolutely, but they did support this particular initiative to deal with the unprecedented event that we're faced with."