Erica Watson is in crisis. She has a raft of physical and mental health problems which means that she is qualified to get a Disability Support Pension.
But lockdown means she can't get the help of friends and family on whom she normally depends. They provide emotional support but also help with daily life, those chores like helping with groceries.
Now a petition from the Australian Unemployed Workers Union has been sponsored by Greens backbencher Andrew Braddock, calling on the ACT government to provide more support for people in Ms Watson's position.
Because Ms Watson has been incapacitated for so long, she says she is ineligible for COVID support payments.
She is trying to live on $62 a day.
"I have contacted various services to try and arrange for meal delivery, but unfortunately I am either ineligible due to age restrictions, or the services require extensive documentation, a lengthy wait for approval, and are, in any case, costly in themselves (Meals on Wheels, for instance, costs $7 to $10 per meal once approved)," she said.
"I am unable to order food from the major supermarkets in bulk, and the delivery fees for repeated small orders add up fast."
Her plight is not unique. There is a swathe of people in Canberra who don't qualify for special pandemic support.
The Canberra branch of the Australian Unemployed Workers' Union said these include people on disability payments, many older people and the long-term unemployed.
The organisation has started a petition to the ACT Legislative Assembly, calling on the ACT government to fund $200 a week disaster payments to all residents in the ACT living on federal income support throughout the lockdown.
"It is unconscionable that anyone should live in poverty in an affluent country's most affluent city," the petition said.
The union said that more than 50,000 Canberrans fall below a widely-recognised poverty line, currently set at $83 a day.
"Worse still, 90 per cent of low-income Canberrans are locked out of federal COVID disaster payments, and 100 per cent are locked out of ACT test-and-isolate payments," the union's petition said.
More than 200 people had signed the online petition by Sunday morning.
Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said the ACT Greens were focused on ensuring the most vulnerable members of the community were supported in the pandemic.
"Support has already been provided to many vulnerable people, and we are looking at more ways we can make sure people who need help don't fall through the cracks," Mr Rattenbury said.
"The ACT Greens often sponsor community petitions to ensure more Canberrans are involved in the democratic process."
Mr Braddock has previously sponsored a petition calling on the ACT government to halt land sales in the Gungahlin town centre.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr on Friday said the ACT government already supplemented Commonwealth income support.
Mr Barr said there was a crisis support payment available to people receiving Centrelink payments, who were not in the workforce and ineligible for the COVID-19 disaster payment.
"We also provide assistance for lower income households, which all of the Commonwealth, Centrelink payment recipients are eligible, through our utilities concession, and that's a way we can provide a direct payment. At the moment it's in the order of $750 to $800 a year," Mr Barr said.
Mr Barr said there would be extra support outlined in next month's ACT budget.
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