Students say that the Federal Government’s new COVID-19 Disaster Payment is ‘not enough’ to support international students most affected by the economic downturn and job insecurity.
The weekly payment compensates workers who are unable to earn an income due to COVID-19 restrictions — those who would have worked over 20 hours are given $500, and those who would have worked under 20 hours are given $325.
Visa holders over the age of 17, including international students, living in Commonwealth-defined COVID-19 hotspot areas are deemed eligible. The payment is administered until a region is no longer considered a hotspot.
While students welcomed the payment, they have argued that it is a bandaid solution that is not nearly enough to protect vulnerable students, particularly international students who are more at risk.
“A cash handout for a couple of weeks is not enough to save our sector and the students that pay thousands to keep it running,” a statement by the National Union of Students (NUS) read.
“International students have been forgotten over Christmas, forgotten over the budget, and now left behind again in time for a return to campus in time for Semester 2.”
The NUS called for both an automatic extension on visas for international students and an amnesty period throughout 2021 due to difficulties meeting visa requirements posed by COVID-19.
“How can we expect recently graduated international students to secure permanent residency and find post-graduate employment in the middle of the biggest health crisis in recent history?” NUS President Zoe Rangathan said.
“The NUS keenly awaits the next move from the Federal Government.”
Lia Perkins, Welfare Officer of the University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council also criticised the payment, saying it “does nothing to address living expenses beyond the brief lockdown and in the rest of the global pandemic.”