“We will be focusing on those in the front line, those who will be feeling the first blows of the economic impact of the coronavirus,” Mr Morrison said on Sunday.
On July 13, the government will also make a $750 cash payment to about 5 million people on social security and veteran income support. Another $750 payment previously announced by the government will be paid on March 31.
Up to 5000 staff members will be recruited by Services Australia, which runs Centrelink, to handle the surge in demand, Mr Morrison said on Sunday.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese criticised the government for doing too little to clarify which workers were eligible for the new payments.
“I watched that media conference last night and I thought it was as clear as mud,” Mr Albanese told ABC Radio.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said any worker whose income had fallen below $1075 a fortnight would be eligible for the coronavirus supplement payment of $550 a fortnight.
He said a worker who had been stood down — like tens of thousands of Qantas workers — would also be able to get normal welfare payments if they had exhausted all of their leave.
“What we’ve tried to do is get the sole trader access to this payment… to get the casual access to this payment,” Mr Frydenberg said on ABC Radio.
The payments will not have a waiting time, besides the time that it takes for a person to register for Centrelink. Even before the current crisis, registering for Newstart, now known as JobSeeker, took an average of 15 days in 2018-19, according to data provided to Senate estimates by Services Australia.
Asked whether those whose partner’s income remained above the earning threshold would still be able to access the new payments, Mr Frydenberg said “It’s based on the income of the person who is actually seeking this payment”.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions lashed the government’s decision to make the payments available only from April 27.
“That’s unacceptable,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said. “That needs to happen now.”
“Workers need this money today in their pockets.”
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Nick Bonyhady is industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based between Sydney and Parliament House in Canberra.