The Green Party is calling on the Government to boost support directly to people so they are not put at greater risk by a change in COVID-19 protections, despite the pandemic continuing to take a toll on our communities and public health system.
“The pandemic is far from over, and people will continue to experience disruption. Guaranteeing a liveable income will ensure that whatever the pandemic brings, no one has to go through it while still trapped in poverty,” says Ricardo Menéndez March, Green spokesperson for social development and employment.
“We know the April 1st benefit increases won’t be enough to provide people with the adequate incomes they need to pay for rent or put food on the table. The Government should double the Winter Energy Payment this year, as it did in 2020, to boost incomes in the short-term.
"COVID-19 protection measures have played a vital role keeping us all safe; staying home has saved lives and protected people from long COVID. Now is not the time to relax these rules. Instead the Government’s attention should be what it can do to support those most at risk - both so they can get through the current outbreak, but also any new variants.
“The inequality crisis in Aotearoa makes this all the more urgent. It is people on the lowest incomes who are likely to be the most affected by a change in the COVID-19 protection settings. Action must be urgently taken to ensure everyone has what they need to get and stay well.
“Evidence shows us that rest and recuperation is key to protecting against long COVID. But the current Care in the Community model is far from sufficient to meet the extent of the Omicron outbreak.
“What people need is unconditional financial support so that whatever the pandemic brings they can live with dignity, put a roof over their heads and food on the table. There also needs to be an immediate increase in the amount people are entitled to as a hardship grant from WINZ before they have to prove ‘exceptional circumstances’.
“The Green Party wants to see any change in protection settings matched with a clear plan to improve the long-term wellbeing of our communities so that everyone, no matter their circumstances, has what they need to provide for themselves and their whānau,” Ricardo Menéndez March says.
Jan Logie, spokesperson for workplace safety and relations added: “The Government needs to commit to paying COVID leave support directly to workers who need to isolate, and to expanding the scheme for retaining long-term. It’s vital that people keep their income while isolating so they can meet the needs of themselves and their whanau.”
“Ensuring people have liveable incomes and are able to recover safely at home, will contribute to better public health outcomes in the long-term,” says Menéndez March.