IMPORTANT CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) INFORMATION

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Dear Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury residents,

It's been a big week.

The Morrison Government announced changes to both JobKeeper and JobSeeker, and delivered its special Budget update. The news wasn’t good.
 
We now know the nation has recorded the biggest Budget deficit since WWII – the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. 

The key points are: 
  • There was an $85.8 billion deficit last financial year. The deficit in the coming financial year is estimated to rise to $184.5 billion. 
  • The Government will not put a date on how long it will take to pay back debt. 
  • The official employmentrate is 7.4%, but that will worsen. One out of every 10 workers are expected to be unemployed by the end of the year. That means 240,000 Australians are predicted to lose their jobs between now and Christmas. The current effective employment rate is 11.3%
JobKeeper and JobSeeker will be cut from the end of September, and tougher eligibility criteria will apply. There is more information on this in the newsletter below. 

Over the past few weeks, I've met with different sectors of the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains - from travel agents to child care teachers. Each time, I've listened to their experiences during COVID-19 and fed all of their information back to our Shadow Ministers. It's clear that the Government needs to do more to support local jobs through this rough time. 
 

Community News

JobKeeper and JobSeeker Changes 


From September 28, the rate of JobKeeper will be reduced to $1200 for full time workers and $750 for people working less than 20 hours a week. It will be further reduced in January. 

Businesses seeking to claim JobKeeper will need to reassess their eligibility. 

The Government has also confirmed that if an employee receiving JobKeeper leaves, their replacement is not eligible for the wage subsidy. Detailed information and guidance on JobKeeper is available on the 
ATO website.

Contrary to the wording on the ATO website earlier in the week, sole traders with no employees will still be eligible for JobKeeper. 

The JobSeeker payment supplement  – or Coronavirus Supplement - will be reduced from $550 per fortnight for $250 per fortnight from September 25. It will continue to be paid until December 31 at $250 per fortnight.

Means testing will be reintroduced from September 25, including asset testing for all payments, as will the Liquid Assets Waiting Period for new claims. Changes to partner income testing will also apply.

More information on income support is available here.

NBNCO 

We've had a win for residents from the Hawkesbury, in areas including Bowen Mountain, Kurrajong Heights, Grose Wold and Kurmond. They'd been told that the would not have access to the NBN until December, in spite of the Government's claims that the rollout was completed by 30 June. 

Residents know that's not the case, and I met with locals recently to learn about the effects of the delay on their day to day lives. I've since shared their experiences with NBNCo. 

NBNCo has responded saying that the COVID pandemic led to delays in the supply of Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) hardware. They now expect much of this FTTC 'service available' area to be actually ready for service by the end of August. 

I will continue to advocate for residents across the electorate. This means holding both NBNCo and the Government to account. It's simply unacceptable to mislead the public in this way. 

 

Holiday at Home

Local businesses in the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains have suffered the dual blows of bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, but we can all do something to help our local economy.

I've visited a couple of these 'hidden gems' across the electorate, and made a series of videos to showcase them. I'd encourage you to venture into these parts of the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains - by visiting you are helping our businesses keep local people employed. 

Check out
 Ebenezer Colo, and the Megalong Valley to start exploring.

Do you know of any local getaways that need a spotlight? Shoot me an email at [email protected], and we'll organise a visit!

 

Bushfire Recovery Support

As the next bushfire season looms, last summer's clean up and recovery remains unfinished. 

Hawkesbury City Council is working with Hawkesbury Local Landcare Network to provide support to bushfire affected residents living adjacent to national, state or regional parks. Landcare can visit properties to provide advice on post-fire land management and conservation, and organise workshops discussing weed, soil and feral animal management, erosion control, and the recovery process. Contact Hawkesbury Local Landcare Network on 45749601, or
 [email protected] to discuss your eligibility. 
 

Disaster Assistance Deadline 

A reminder that applications for Federal payments for individuals who lost income or have been adversely affected as a direct result of the summer bushfires close on 4 August 2020. Click here for more information.
 

Save the ABC 

Time and time again, the Government has slashed funding from the ABC. The Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury relied on the broadcaster throughout the bushfires, and we continue to tune in for reliable information throughout COVID-19. Clearly, the ABC needs our support, not further cuts. 

That's why I am holding a Virtual Rally with Michelle Rowland, Shadow Minister for Communications. Tell us what the ABC means to you - and show the Government that it's too important to neglect. 

Join us on 
my Facebook Page from 6:30pm on Thursday the 30th of July to show your support.  
 

COVID-19
Latest Rules 

The NSW Government has issued an easy-to-read guide of the latest rules and regulations surrounding COVID-19 restrictions as at July 6. You can read the PDF document here. See here for answers to frequently asked questions, and here for what you can and can’t do under the latest rules, including the latest border closures.
 

Interest Free Loans 

Good Shepherd, in conjunction with the Australian Government, is offering interest-free loans of up to $3,000 towards rent and utilities for eligible people affected by COVID-19. The loans are to be repaid over 24 months. You may be eligible if you:
  • Are 18 years or over;
  • Are an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or hold a valid visa that expires after the loan term;
  • Have a before tax annual income of less than $60,000 if you are single, or less than $100,000 for couples or people with dependants;
  • Have lost your job, had income reduced, moved onto Centrelink payments after March 2020 or been otherwise financially impacted by COVID-19; and,
  • Have reduced income if you’re self-employed.
 

Emergency Relief Grants 

Multicultural NSW is running a $4 million emergency relief grants program to support vulnerable temporary visa holders and specialist migrant and settlement NGOs in response to COVID-19. Grants close 4pm Monday, July 27.
 

Stay safe online

The internet has been essential during the COVID-19 crisis to maintain social and economic connections, but nearly four in 10 adults has had at least one negative experience online, according to eSafety’s latest research. Visit eSafety’s COVID-19 page for the latest advice on keeping safe online, including a safety kit for parents and carers, tips for supporting young people’s wellbeing, and skills training to help seniors get online safely.
 

Beware of scams - COVID-19 and Tax

There have been reports on Facebook that people are receiving scam phone calls asking them to pay for urgent COVID-19 testing. It's not clear whether the scam is actually happening - but if you do get a call, you should NEVER give your credit card details out over the phone. To be tested for COVID-19 you need to attend one of the various clinics in your area. 

Please watch out for Government impersonation scams. There's been an increase in scams reported during tax time, including text messages that claim to be sent from myGov, or agencies offering to help victims access their superannuation. 

There have been two main types of scams impersonating government departments: fake government threats and phishing scams. You can keep up to date with the latest scams, report them or get help via the
 Scamwatch website.

Information and resources 
The NSW State Government is responsible for deciding restrictions and requirements. For the latest updates, please see their dedicated COVID-19 website.

For further information, please see the links below:

  • The Australian Government - here
  • The Department of Health - here
  • The NSW Government - here
  • NSW Health - here
  • Nepean Blue Mountains Health District - here
  • Blue Mountains City Council - here
  • Hawkesbury City Council - here

 

Business News

COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund  

Some of the electorate of Macquarie will meet the eligibility criteria for assistance from the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS).

Small regional business owners impacted by COVID-19 are being offered access to free, confidential financial counselling through the RFCS. The program supports small businesses in regional areas facing hardship due to COVID-19, and covers small regional businesses not already supported by drought and/or bushfire measures.

To be eligible, businesses must employ 19 or fewer people, be experiencing or be at imminent risk of financial hardship, be located in an area not within 20km or a town with a population greater than 50,000, and be ineligible to access regular RFCS counselling services (available to primary producers). For more information contact 1300 771 741.

If you are ineligible for this support but would like to access other financial counselling services, please contact my office for a list of other services available.

Home Based Business Council  

On July 1 the Home Based Business Council of Australia Limited (HBBCA) was officially launched by Kate Carnell AO, Ombudsman for the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Office.

I have met with Ms Carnell in recent months to discuss the needs of small business and home based businesses, and encourage you to connect with this new organisation, which aims to be the voice of home-based business to the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments around Australia. For more information, click
 here.
 

Mental Health at Work   

It’s well known that I have a strong interest in mental health, and a NSW Government grant opportunity recently caught my eye. Expressions of interest for the second round of the State Insurance Regulatory Authority’s (SIRA) Recovery Boost program have have now opened. The program aims to gather evidence on what works to improve mental health recovery at work, and SIRA is offering grants of up to $50,000 to individuals and organisations with great ideas to create positive change. Expressions of interest close on August 6.
 


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