‘Cruel joke’: JobSeeker will reportedly increase by $50 a fortnight when coronavirus support ends, leaving recipients with less than $4 more per day

The Federal Government has reportedly agreed to lift the base JobSeeker payment by $50 a fortnight from April 1, a boost which advocates for the unemployed say would still leave thousands of Australians vulnerable to severe financial distress.

The Guardian reports Cabinet ministers met on Monday to discuss permanently lifting the fortnightly payment from its pre-pandemic level of $565 a fortnight, or about $40 a day.

News.com.au reports that Prime Minister Scott Morrison is slated to present the changes to the party room on Tuesday.

That boost would represent the payment’s first real growth since 1994.

However, it would leave recipients with less than they currently receive, thanks to the imminent departure of the $150 a fortnight Coronavirus Supplement, which is set to expire on March 31.

All told, the reported increase would net recipients about $3.50 extra every day compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Reports of the boosted payment come after years of campaigning from groups like the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), who say the original $40-a-day rate forced recipients to skip meals and sleep rough.

Responding to the reports, ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said the organisation wants to see a permanent increase of at least $25 a day, equating to more than $350 a fortnight.

Any decision to tweak the payment would impact “hundreds of thousands of children whose parents are locked of paid work, people with a disability, students, older workers, people with a chronic illness, single parents, people from all walks of life,” Dr Goldie said.

The Australian Unemployed Workers Union, which has called for JobSeeker to be permanently lifted to $80 a day, or $1,120 a fortnight – roughly the same payment offered to recipients at the height of coronavirus lockdowns – says the reports represent a “cruel joke.”

The temporary boost to JobSeeker provided by the Coronavirus Supplement was credited with keeping 155,000 Australians from the edge of homelessness.

Some 1.3 million Australians currently receive the JobSeeker allowance.