The ACT Greens, and the ACT Government, understand that the impact of the COVID- 19 pandemic will be unlike anything our society has experienced. We need to come together to support each other, and work to address the disproportionate impact this will have on those most vulnerable - the elderly, people with disabilities, casual workers, and people in irregular employment.
Our ACT Labor-Greens Government has today announced the first rapid response to help support our economy while we manage the spread of COVID-19 and its impacts, with a $137 million investment into our local economy.
There are three important parts to our initial COVID-19 response: support for our community’s resilience and our public health system; extra financial support for those struggling financially; and support for small and medium businesses to keep people in work.
The Greens have also been working hard to improve the mental health, wellbeing and resilience of Canberrans during this difficult time.
That’s why, as your Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, I’m pleased to announce that an extra $100,000 will be provided to Lifeline ACT. Lifeline has experienced a 25% increase in calls in recent months. These extra funds will help this tireless community organisation field up to 1,000 extra calls each month over the next six months, providing more crucial support to Canberrans at this time of need.
We’re also increasing the capacity of our public health system.
Now more than ever, we need a public health system that cares for everyone.
That’s why we’ve set up two dedicated COVID-19 testing sites to help manage the spread of the virus, are increasing the number of available hospital beds, and purchasing more medical equipment and supplies.
We’re providing more support for those with fewer resources to fall back on.
The next few months are going to be tough for everyone, but particularly for people with fewer resources to call on.
That’s why we’re providing $200 rebates for the 35,000 Canberra households who receive the utilities concession, and each public housing household will receive $250 to help pay other bills. This will help more vulnerable members of our community put food on the table, and stay well.
An additional $7 million will be provided to local community services, like emergency and food relief services, as well as meeting additional service demand across the sector.
… And supporting more businesses to keep people in work.
It is important that people continue to have access to stable work that they can count on.
That’s why we are allocating $20m to be spent immediately on infrastructure projects like schools, roads, public transport and path maintenance, as well as $3m to fast-track tree planting and maintenance. We’re also freezing Government fees (such as car registration, parking, and public transport), while small business owners will receive commercial rates rebates and additional financial support to help with their power bills. ACT Government casual employees will also be guaranteed work for the foreseeable period.
Casual workers and those in the ‘gig economy’ are likely to be significantly impacted by this public health emergency. That’s why we’re waiving a range of fees for hotels, clubs, pubs, restaurants, creative, arts and entertainment sectors: to help keep more Canberrans in work, able to pay their bills and put food on the table. Our arts community will be relieved that a new $500,000 fund will be made available for grants of up to $10,000.
So what happens now?
Let’s be clear: many in our community will face real challenges due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. The ACT Government does not have the financial ability to provide a welfare system in the way that the Federal Government can. We are already working on a further two ACT stimulus packages to come over the next 12 months. There’s still a long way to go on this - and more that we need to do.
As Greens in Government, we urge you to let us know how the Government can respond to meet our community needs, as we collectively grapple with this unprecedented situation. You can reach me via Facebook, Twitter or email to make your voice heard.
Shane Rattenbury MLA
ACT Greens leader
P.S. If in need of some advice on what to do next, here are some resources that could be helpful:
- For Official ACT Government advice on COVID-19, go to https://www.health.act.gov.au. This website lists the most accurate and up-to-date advice on COVID-19 in the ACT, and is regularly updated with new and important information.
- For advice over the phone, contact the National COVID-19 hotline on 1800 020 080. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.
- To let us know what you think the Government should be doing to assist you during this time, email RATTENBURY@act.gov.au, or drop us a line via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
- For tips on how to care for you and your family’s mental health and wellbeing during this time, visit our ACT Health website’s dedicated mental health and wellbeing support page for more resources.