Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced the effective doubling of the dole and a big increase in benefits, boosting benefits by $225 a week.
The government has also told Australians to cancel all non-essential travel, and flagged "far more draconian measures to enforce social distancing" saying too many Australians did not seem to be getting the message.
Mr Morrison announced other measures covering people on benefits, pensioners and businesses on Sunday:
- Another $750 cash hand-out for veterans, people on health-care cards and pensioners
- A massive boost to the business grants, totalling up to $100,000 for each
- Allowing people to draw down $10,000 a year from superannuation, tax free, and more changes to deeming rates
- Limiting business liquidations and director liability for trading while insolvent
- The benefits boost, meaning people on the unemployment benefit and other welfare will now receive $1100 a fortnight
The "coronavirus supplement" applies to people on Newstart - now known as the "job seeker payment", as well youth allowance, parenting payments, the farm household allowance and special benefits.
The assets test and waiting period has been waived, allowing people who lose their jobs to more easily qualify for a benefit.
Income tests will still apply. The income tests means people are eligible for the full benefit if they earn less than $1075 a fortnight (just under $540 a week).
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the unemployed would now receive $1100 a fortnight, with the extra coronavirus supplement being paid for six months.
This benefits boost will cost $14.1 billion and will see the government employ up to 5000 more staff in Services Australia, the department that includes Centrelink. The employment boost could be a significant fillip for the Canberra economy, depending on where staff are employed.
Ten days ago the government announced a cash handout of $750 to people on welfare and pensioners. On Sunday, Mr Frydenberg said an extra $750 would now go to veterans, people on health care cards and others who are not eligible for the new coronavirus benefit supplement. The first $750 went to 6.5 million people; the second payment goes to about five million people, about half of whom are pensioners.
The first payment is made on March 31 and will be given to anyone who has been on a benefit between March 12 and April 13. The second payment would be made automatically from July 13.
People who lose their jobs or income will be able to take money out of their superannuation - up to $10,000 between now and July 1 and another $10,000 from July 1, tax free. The withdrawals from superannuation will be tax free, will not affect pensions and will also be available to people on benefits and to sole traders and casuals who have lost 20 per cent or more in working hours.
Ten days ago, Mr Morrison announced that the "deeming" rate for pensioners relying on income from investments would be cut by 0.5 points. On Sunday, he announced that deeming rates would be cut by another 0.25 percentage points.
The deeming rate is the amount the government "deems" people to have earned from their investments when it calculates their pensions. The rate will now be 0.25 per cent for single pensioners with investments up to $51,800 and $86,200 for pensioner couples, and 2.25 per cent at the upper end.
"Since the government announced its first stimulus package just over a week ago, the global and the domestic economic environment has deteriorated. We now expect the economic shock to be deeper, wider and longer. Every arm of government and industry is working to keep Australians in jobs and businesses in business and to build a bridge to recovery on the other side," Mr Frydenberg said.
The Australian government's stimulus and safety net measures now amount to $189 billion - $17.6 billion in the first tranche of grants and tax breaks on March 12, $105 billion in the Reserve Bank business loan facility on March 19, and now $66.1 billion in Sunday's measures.
Mr Morrison warned again that the tough times would last for months.
"We cannot prevent all the many hardships, many sacrifices that we will face in the months ahead," he said. "And while these hardships and sacrifices may break our hearts on occasion, we must not let them break our spirit and we must not let them break our resolve."
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