Huge lines stretch across the footpath outside Centrelink offices in Sydney, as tens of thousands are out of work amid the city’s brutal Covid lockdown
- The number of people claiming benefits in Sydney has increased
- Among the dozens of people who needed help were those in the construction industry
- Those in building and construction get $600 a week ‘disaster pay’
- Some earn up to $400 a day, with payment considered unacceptable by many
Desperate Sydneysiders left out of work have been forced to queue for hours outside Centrelink’s offices in an attempt to claim payments.
The line to enter the Centrelink and Medicare service center in Darlinghurst, inner-city Sydney, stretched for at least 100 yards along Crown Street on Tuesday.
Workers seeking benefits were initially accepted in groups of 10 from 8.30am, before the majority had to come back 24 hours later.
Online demand for emergency services was so great on Monday that the Service NSW website crashed. Entrepreneurs with a business subsidy were also advised to submit an application at a later date.
The development comes after the NSW government’s controversial decision to extend the closure of Greater Sydney until at least July 30.
People queuing at Centrelink in Sydney’s Darlinghurst on Tuesday (pictured) as the number of people out of work due to lockdown continues to rise
The building and construction industry was then suspended last Saturday in a desperate attempt to reduce the number of Covid cases, especially in south-west Sydney.
Student Mohammad Ahmed, 27, relies on two separate jobs for his income. Due to the lockdown, he lost 25 hours of work from both jobs combined per week.
“I’ve been pretty much home for the past four weeks,” he told the… Sydney Morning Herald.
‘I have to find out what shelter is available for me as an international student. It’s been tough.’
Last week, the federal government announced that coronavirus support will be readily available to people losing work hours in lockdown.
Under the support scheme, people who have lost more than 20 hours of work in the past week can receive a weekly payment of $600.
Those who lost between eight and 20 hours will receive $375.
The payments are available electronically after completing the paperwork and meeting a series of requirements.
388,000 claims worth $186 million have been approved in NSW as of Tuesday.
Despite the frustration of countless employees who are indefinitely off the tools, NSW is premier Gladys Berejiklian insists the decision to close the building and construction sector was necessary to ‘end the lockdown as soon as possible’.
“We want to ensure that our population can live as safely and freely as possible until we vaccinate a large part of the population,” she said.
“(When I say that) I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re going without the basics they need.”
Lines to enter Centrelink in Darlinghurst (pictured) are over 100 meters long as people seek benefits as they are out of work during the lockdown
The Berejik government has defended the decision to suspend the building and construction industry, as it was deemed necessary to contain the virus outbreak, especially in south-west Sydney (pictured, construction site workers in Sydney before the lockdown)
David Borger, an executive director who specializes in construction projects in western Sydney, said the construction industry is on its knees as workers have budgeted their work and livelihoods based on their continued employment as key merchants.
Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in June showed unemployment in NSW had fallen to an encouraging 4.9 percent.
Due to the recent lockdown, those numbers could rise to well above 5 percent.
On Tuesday, NSW registered 78 new Covid-19 cases – but 27 were contagious in the community.
The 78 positive results in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. Monday night came from 62,860 tests.
Greater Sydney is going through its fourth week of strict stay-at-home lockdown restrictions to slow the spread of the highly contagious Delta strain.