The year has delivered a devastating blow to home budgets and livelihoods for many around Australia but new research shows ACT residents have been largely unscathed.
The Australian National University's (ANU) Centre for Social Research and Methods has completed modelling to compare pre-coronavirus income levels and poverty rates with June figures for regions all around the country.
Associate Professor Ben Phillips is behind the study and said the figures showed income support policies like Jobseeker and JobKeeper helped to bring much of Australia's low socio-economic regional and rural areas in Australia out of the poverty base by June.
"Many regions have done quite well because the welfare payments have been increased by quite a substantial amount so many regions already had reasonably high unemployment, and those people were significantly better off [before income support levels were cut]," Professor Phillips said.
The modelling defines poverty as the amount a household has left after housing costs and taxation are deducted. It then looks at the median value of all of those figures and if a household income is less than half of that, it's considered as living in poverty.
But the story in Canberra and the ACT is a little different to the rest of the country. While only one region of the ACT features in the top 10 list for income levels - South Canberra with an average yearly income of $135,497 - the territory dominates the list of regions with the lowest poverty base rates, with five featuring in the top 10.
Molonglo, Woden Valley, South Canberra, Weston Creek and Gungahlin are among the country's top regions for the lowest rates of poverty, ranging between 4.4 and 5.7 per cent of the population. Molonglo, with the smallest population of the five ranked first in the ACT and third nationally with a poverty base of 4.4 per cent.
North Canberra was the highest recorded in the ACT with 8.9 per cent.
"We haven't been as impacted, in terms of infection rates, as heavily as some other parts of Australia," Professor Phillips said.
"Also, just the makeup of the workforce in Canberra is quite heavily reliant on public services.
"Public service jobs have generally been insulated from the worst parts of COVID whereas some industries, say tourism and accommodation, these areas have been affected and that does impact Canberra to some extent but not nearly as badly as some other parts of the country."
All ACT regions experienced minor decreases in the poverty base by June but the modelling for October shows Tuggeranong, Belconnen and Gungahlin will face an increase of between 4.4 and 5 per cent as income support payments drop.
In late September, changes to JobSeeker and JobKeeper meant the fortnightly payments introduced at the start of the health crisis were decreased by hundreds of dollars.
JobKeeper recipients now receive $1200 or $750 a fortnight, depending on hours worked, down from $1500. That's set to drop further to $1000 and $650 from January 4, 2021 until its expiry on March 28, 2021.
For those on JobSeeker, the September decrease saw a maximum fortnightly payment of $1100 fall to about $800.
While it's set to affect many of the regions experiencing upticks in household income, Professor Phillips explained the impact for income levels and poverty rates in Canberra would be minimal.
"[Canberra hasn't] been as impacted and the government's response was so strong that many regions, particularly poorer regions, actually did very well and their incomes went up on average," Professor Phillips said.
"As we move through to where there's lower payments, I think Canberra does do quite well simply because we don't have so many people on those welfare payments.
"We've been fairly lucky and we're coming off a very low base of poverty."
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