By Julie Owens

06 July 2021

Greater Sydney is in lockdown until at least the end of this week – a situation which may change for better or worse in the time it takes this paper to reach you.

Last week, stay at home orders were announced in Brisbane, Perth, Darwin, Townsville and the Gold Coast, plunging 12 million Australians into lockdown to stop the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

The public debate has, quite rightly, been focused on the reasons why almost half the population is in lockdown more than a year after the pandemic began.

Without losing sight of that, I wanted to spend some time talking about the people in our community who are hurting because of this lockdown, and how they can find help.

Many are hurting because they’ve lost work. Casuals accounted for two thirds of job losses during the first COVID lockdown and will bear the brunt of this one. 

It’s hard to say how many have been affected, but a shift scheduling app used by two million Australian workers has reported an almost 70% cut in hospitality shifts, and a decline of around 60% in retail and service roles. Parramatta is home to around 10% of Sydney’s casual workforce – 54,600 people.

If you’ve lost work and income because of the lockdown, you may be eligible to claim a one-off COVID-19 Disaster Payment from the Federal Government. It only kicks in when the lockdown lasts for more than 7 days, meaning you can only claim if for hours you lose from the start of the second week - $500 for 20 hours or more or $325 for less than 20 hours.

Refugees, asylum seekers and other temporary visa holders who’ve lost work will not be eligible for this payment – or any other government support.

Volunteers and local community organisations like Parramatta Mission and Karabi Community Services continue to step up wherever the government is absent, providing emergency relief including meals, food parcels and food vouchers. But the demand is so great that some organisations now have waiting lists for these services.

Of course, people have lost work because businesses have been forced to scale back or close their doors during lockdown. This has been devastating for local small businesses, who have been struggling to trade through changing restrictions and the construction of the Parramatta Light Rail for more than a year.

From late July, small businesses that have seen a decline in turnover can apply for a NSW Government COVID-19 support grant - $5,000 for a 30% decline in turnover, $7,000 for a 50% decline and $10,000 for a 70% decline. While this support is welcome, I’ve already heard from business owners that have been forced to close, but won’t be eligible for these grants.

The QR code at bottom left links to a page on my website with information about the business support grants, the COVID-19 Disaster Payment and other local services that can help if you’re struggling.  And my office is always available to help by phone or email.

Some of you who are doing OK might like to consider volunteering or making a donation to one of our fantastic local relief organisations. But we can all do our bit to help by looking out for each other. That’s how we’ll get through this together.