COVID-19 update – 7 April 2020

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Update on JobKeeper payment and support for tenants

As we move into another week of our new COVID-19 reality, we wanted to give you an update on some of the latest developments and the work that QCOSS has been doing to support the community sector.

We have met with various Queensland Government Ministers, politicians, department representatives and other peak organisations to discuss the impacts on the sector and what needs to be done to enable organisations to continue delivering sustainable services, that are needed now, more than ever.

As part of the Councils of Social Service (COSS) network, QCOSS also continues to advocate for more support to protect against job losses and service cuts in the sector, so that community organisations can continue our important work.

Update on JobKeeper payment

We are pleased to see the government’s decision to change the eligibility criteria for charities to access the JobKeeper payment. All charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission will now be eligible for JobKeeper Payment if they have a decline in turnover of 15 per cent or more (not 30 per cent as previously announced). This will apply to all registered charities including those with a turnover of more than $1 billion.

This move will certainly help however it still leaves many community organisations without adequate support.

We’re advocating that specific-purpose funding, including government grants, should not be included when looking at revenue. The revenue test for not-for-profits and charities should be the reduction in turnover that comes from individualised government funding models (such as NDIS and childcare), donations, income from investments and income from social enterprises.

ACOSS, on behalf of the COSS network, continues to work actively to secure the best outcome for services and the community as a whole. Read ACOSS’ media release.

More information on the JobKeeper payment is available in the updated JobKeeper fact sheet.

Hold on evictions for renters

During this health crisis, when we’re all expected to self-isolate, having certainty in our living arrangements is crucial. It is critical that no-one is forced into homelessness as a result of COVID-19.

The Australian and state governments have agreed on measures to protect renters. Evictions will be put on hold over the next six months for commercial and residential tenancies who are unable to pay rent due to the impact of coronavirus. We note that this is not a blanket prohibition on evictions. Evictions may still occur for other reasons such as if tenants significantly damage the property or if the landlord needs to move in because of financial distress.

We strongly support these protections however we await more clarity about how this will be implemented. We’d like to see further reforms such as allowing for early exits from tenancy agreements where both parties agree or where there are issues of domestic and family violence.

We’ve been encouraged by some landlords already agreeing to defer rental payments for their tenants. Tenants should talk to their landlords or agents to agree on rent relief or temporary amendments to the lease. Everyone is urged to be understanding and reasonable in their dealings with each other. Tenants who are having difficulties liaising with their landlord or agent can call Tenants Queensland on 1300 744 263.

If you have more questions about your application and the assistance available to you, please contact the Residential Tenancies Authority on 1300 366 311 (8:30am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday) or call the SSQ COVID hotline on 134 268 43.

COVID-19 rental grant

Funding is available for Queenslanders who have lost their job due to the impacts of COVID-19 and who do not have access to other financial assistance.

The COVID-19 rental grant is a one-off payment of up to four weeks rent (to a maximum of $2,000).

Eligibility criteria includes that the grant is only for those who have lost their job due to the impacts of COVIC-19, have applied to Centrelink for income support and are waiting for their application with Centrelink to be approved. For more information and eligibility criteria visit the Queensland Government website.

ASIC letter about early release of superannuation

It is disappointing to hear that some real estate agents are advising tenants who cannot pay their rent to apply for early release of their superannuation. The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has written a letter to the real estate institutes in each state outlining their concerns about agents providing unlicensed financial advice.

Read ASIC’s letter here.

More assistance

As mentioned previously, the Queensland Government has established a $24.7 million response fund to deliver enhanced housing support to support people experiencing vulnerability during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out more on the Department of Housing and Public Works website. We’ll keep you up to date as more details are released.

The Department of Housing and Public Works’ Housing Service Centres remain open to assist existing clients and those who need housing assistance. Call 13 QGOV (13 74 68) or search Housing Service Centre online to contact you nearest Housing Service Centre for housing help. For more information on how to access housing help visit the department’s website.

More information

For up to date information affecting your organisation and your clients visit the COVID-19 section on the Community Door website, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Visit the Queensland Health website for the most reliable source of health information for Queenslanders.

As always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or updates about what is happening in the community sector. For COVID-19 related issues, contact us on [email protected].

7 April 2020