Deborah Di Natale speaks to Mix 104.9 about Territorian eligibility for Pandemic Leave Disaster Payments

Intro:  The NT Council of Social Services has welcomed the fact that Territorians are now eligible for the federal government’s Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.


On Friday, the lump payment of $1500 was made available for eligible Territorians who have been unable to earn an income while they undertake isolation because of Covid-19 concerns.


However, NTCOSS chief executive Deborah Di Natale said a more comprehensive Covid-19 disaster payment plan was still needed for those in more precarious work arrangements.


She spoke to Katie Woolf on Mix 104.9 about the serious impacts of a five-day lockdown and the need for federal payments to apply for the duration of lockdowns and eligibility needs to be expanded, in the interests of our community health, economy and decency.


Read the full interview below:

Mix 104.9 : Katie Woolf – We do know that the Northern Territory Council of Social Services have welcomed the fact that Territorians are now eligible for the Federal Government’s pandemic leave disaster payment now. The Chief Executive, Deborah di Natale, and she is going to be joining us in just a moment to let us know a little bit more about this payment and really how it’s been received.

But on Friday, essentially, this lump payment of 1500 dollars was made available to eligible Territorians who have been unable to earn an income while they’ve had to undertake isolation because of those covid-19 concerns.

And we know that it has been something that’s been a real, a real concern for a lot of Territorians, particularly if you’re not able to go to work and not able, you know, to have your usual income that you would. Now, joining us on the line from the NT Council of Social Services, the chief executive, Deborah Di Natale.

Good morning to you, Deb.

NTCOSS CEO : Deborah Di Natale – Good morning, Katie.

Katie Woolf – Now talk us through this pandemic leave disaster payment Deb and if it’s a good thing for Territorians.

Deborah Di Natale – Oh, thanks, Katie. Look, it’s hugely good news for Territorians and really welcome news because what the pandemic leave disaster payment does for Territorians is, it means those who get any type of directive from a Territory health official that they’ve got to self isolate and they lose their income as a result, they’ll get a lump sum of fifteen hundred dollars. So what would happen before is that if people had to self isolate, that’s 14 days without an income and now they’re getting a payment for that.

So I just want to say it’s great news for us in the Territory for those who need to quarantine, but also want to give a plug to the NTG who is covering the costs for temporary visa holders. So everybody still needs to apply through Services Australia but the NTG is picking up the bill for temporary visa holders, and I think that’s great, that they’ve extended it to ensure that they’re covered as well.

Katie Woolf – Deb, do we have any idea how many Territorians this would have impacted last week?

Deborah Di Natale – We haven’t got the numbers of that yet. But what we do know is that if we don’t have appropriate quarantine measures in place to encourage people staying home, that’s when we’re going to find ourselves in a situation of risk.

And I mean, by looking at the news so far, it looks like we’re in a very good place to be able to lift our restrictions come Friday. So that’s happy news for all of us in the Territory.

Katie Woolf – Yeah, for sure. And and, you know, I guess so we have heard from, you know, from people who are casual workers, from those in hospitality, you know, no matter what industry, even the gym industry at the moment who are sort of finding it a bit tough right now if they’re not able to get to work.

Deborah Di Natale – I know. And look, not all employees have the benefit of being able to work from home.

And we also know that we’ve got a huge casualisation in terms of the workforce, like, you look at the not-for-profit area, for example, and we employ over 10,000 people in the not-for-profit sector, and we know, that the last numbers have told us, that 36.4 percent of those employees are in the casual workforce. Now, if you’re a casual and you can’t work and we know what it’s like living in the Territory now where the cost of rent is gone through the roof, people are all saying that the value of the housing has gone through the roof. It’s pretty expensive. So to lose that income when you really need it to make ends meet, some people are doing it extremely tough.

Katie Woolf – Yeah, they really are.

And and, you know, we know that it’s sort of like it affects people across such a vast, you know, such a vast sort of, you know, spectrum, I guess you’d say. Whether whether you’re talking about people that are employed part-time, whether you’re talking, like you said, about those about those workers that are here from overseas that would be struggling or even our students, you know, some of those students that are international students that are here right now, we know over that COVID lockdown first time round, and then when you talk about this one, it’s been really tough on some of those people.

Deborah Di Natale – It’s been hugely tough.

And the other thing in terms of the Federal COVID Disaster Payment is that it only applies after the first seven days of lockdown.

So it means, because the Federal COVID Disaster Payment means that those people who have got 20 hours of paid work and they lose that, they’re entitled to $300 and those that have got 20 hours or more are entitled to $500.

Now, there’s some people that’s going to help, but it’s not going to get them to where they need to be. And I guess from our point of view, we would be saying the minute the lockdown hits, the Federal Government should be thinking about those subsidies effective immediately.

So, you know, it’s a tough call. It was a tough call for our chief minister to turn around and to say we have to go into immediate lockdown. But it was the right call and that is why we are where we are today. But of course, there is no question that that has had an impact on a number of businesses and a number of individuals.

And I just want to say to your listeners that there have been a number of announcements. If, for example, you’re in arts and culture or you’re in the small business, there are a whole host of lockdown payments that you may be eligible for. So I encourage them to go on to because that there will mean that they might be eligible for a particular grant. So you may as well check whether you fit the criteria.

Katie Woolf – Deb. So is that the best place for people to go to if they are after some more information? That’s that’s what they should do.

Deborah Di Natale – That’s totally what they should do. Yes, because obviously the government hasn’t been in the situation to cover all people, exactly as you say Katie, it is a wide spectrum. And I did see a number of businesses quickly turning to take away and to do what they could to minimize the impact. But there still will be people who are doing it tough that are now, unfortunately, doing it tougher. But for those that are in either arts and culture or some type of small business, quickly go on the website and check what you’re eligible for because you may be able to get a payment for that lost income.

Katie Woolf – Well, Deb Di Natale, it’s always good to catch up with you. We really appreciate your time this morning.

Deborah Di Natale – Fabulous. Thanks, Kate.

Katie Woolf – Thank you. That is NTCOSS Chief Execuitive there, Deb Di Natale. And it is good to hear that there is this payment, that lump payment of 1500 dollars made available for those eligible Territorians. I know that there will certainly be people out there listening who are hoping that they’re going to be able to access that.