Emergency allowances for temporary visa holders will be set at the same rate as main unemployment benefits – but they will not have access to additional assistance, such as housing supplement or food subsidies.
Starting in December, migrant workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic – as well as student and visitor visa holders who face financial hardship and cannot return home – will be able to benefit from emergency aid for a limited time.
Usually, people who are not residents or citizens are not eligible for support from the Department of Social Development.
However, there is a specific provision in the law to grant emergency benefits to people who are not normally entitled to them, during an epidemic.
It has now been confirmed that the emergency allowance will be paid at the same rate as the assistance to job seekers.
This means that singles will receive $ 251 per week, people with a partner and their children $ 428 per week, while single parents will receive $ 375 per week.
But temporary visa holders won’t be able to get additional support or payments, such as accommodation supplement or hardship help, like food subsidies.
They will also need to show that they are looking for work or other means of supporting themselves and that they are looking for options to return home.
So far, this group has had to rely on support through a temporary program run by the Department of Home Affairs and the Red Cross, which ends at the end of this month.
Since July, it has helped 12,300 people with basic needs such as food and shelter.
Migrant worker advocates have been pushing for access to emergency benefits for months – and they say they are relieved that this has finally happened.
The president of the Migrant Trade Union Network, Mandeep Bela, said it had been a difficult time for many.
“Many of them were asking for help from the community and going to collect food packages,” he said.
“They will be relieved to be able to go through a standard process now.”
But Bela is still frustrated that it has taken so long.
“I just have the feeling that often the migrants are opposed to the Kiwis and that the rhetoric has actually delayed [the section of the law allowing access to benefits during an epidemic] being activated. “
The president of the Migrant Workers Association, Anu Kaloti, also welcomes the changes.
But Kaloti is concerned that some temporary visa holders are reluctant to apply for an emergency benefit because they either don’t know how or don’t trust the system.
“There will be people who are suspicious and nervous, and we have to take into account that temporary migrants will not be fully familiar with the workings of work and income.
“They were never eligible for this kind of help, so they never had to use these services.”
Community Law chief executive Sue Moroney said the government should have acted sooner to help temporary migrants, given it has the legal capacity to do so.
“What we wanted to see the law enacted the way it was intended … it is clear that Article 64 of the Social Security Law was there for exactly this reason, in the event of a pandemic, that migrants would have. access to emergency service.
“We were concerned that if it wasn’t going to be used in this case, what was it for?
Moroney said the change should make a big difference for those who struggle.
“It will be much clearer what the right will be and how much people will receive, and that means that they will actually receive money to be able to support themselves.”
Emergency benefit requests for temporary visa holders open on December 1 and the benefit will be paid until the end of February.