E whakamāmā ake nei mātou te tomonga ki te pūtea tautoko We are making income support easier to access
Delivering income support to more people during and after the COVID-19 lockdowns
We responded to the global pandemic by introducing new income support programmes so we could deliver our existing core services more quickly. This also freed up time to provide more employment case management to get people into jobs.
During and immediately after the COVID-19 national lockdowns, and into the first part of 2020/21, the number of people receiving main benefits rose sharply. However, short-term movements in benefit numbers during 2020/21 showed a slower rise than was being forecast before the year started, and mirrored pre-COVID-19 seasonal changes. This indicates that the economy is recovering more robustly than anticipated.
Additional COVID-19 payments helped during elevated alert levels
There were several short changes to alert levels during the year, affecting Auckland and Wellington. In the most extensive of these changes, in August 2020 the Government introduced a Resurgence Wage Subsidy for employers and self-employed people who would otherwise have had to lay off staff or reduce their hours due to COVID-19. The Resurgence Subsidy was available between 21 August and 3 September 2020 and provided a lump-sum payment to eligible employers at a flat rate of $585.80 for people working full-time (20 hours or more per week) and $350.00 for people working less than 20 hours per week (part-time rate). Total payments under the Resurgence Subsidy were nearly $315 million, with almost 294,000 jobs supported.
Short-term Absence Payment
In February 2021 the Government introduced a Short-term Absence Payment to help businesses to pay staff who were off work and unable to work from home while waiting on a COVID-19 test result, through a one-off payment of $350. The payment was also available for employers in respect of an employee who had to stay at home because they:
- had a dependant or other household member who was staying at home awaiting a test result, or
- were a secondary contact.
Wage Subsidy payments
When a further elevation in alert levels was announced in March 2021 , the Government activated the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy March 2021. Applications opened on 4 March 2021, and by 25 June we had processed almost 61,000 applications, approving payments of over $183 million. The March Subsidy supported 170,000 jobs.
The Wage Subsidy was not activated in response to the June 2021 alert level change for Wellington.
Other ways we made access to income support easier in 2019/20 and 2020/21, during and following the COVID lockdowns, included:
- removing stand-down periods at benefit grant, for eight months from 30 March 2020
- suspending requirements to produce medical certificates (from 25 March 2020)
- deferring annual benefit and Disability Allowance reviews (from 25 March 2020)
- funding in-home childcare for essential workers (from 25 March 2020)
- streamlining benefit application processes
- making outreach calls to vulnerable people
- providing additional emergency housing assistance
- increasing limits for hardship grants for food
- pausing 52-week benefit reapplications, annual and housing reviews, and subsequent medical certificates (March 2020 to March 2021)
- accepting phone applications for Funeral Grants (April to October 2020)
- deferring medical reviews for Child Disability Allowance (March to October 2020)
- deferring reapplications for Temporary Additional Support (April to October 2020)
- extending expiries of Emergency Benefit and Special Benefit (March to October 2020).
Helping more students with loans and allowances
We experienced a big increase in demand for Student Loans and Allowances during our peak student application season, which commenced with the launch of the annual Call to Action campaign on 13 September 2020. The campaign encourages students to apply by 16 December to give them the best chance of having everything in order before starting study the following year. Of the applications received between 13 September 2020 and 13 March 2021 (the start of the academic year), 60 percent were received by 16 December.
From 12 August 2020, Auckland was raised to alert level 3 with the rest of New Zealand moving to level 2. Auckland moved back to level 2 and the rest of the country to level 1 from 30 August, with Auckland returning to level 1 on 21 September.
Auckland moved to level 3 from 14 February 2021, with the rest of New Zealand elevated to level 2 at the same time. All regions dropped one level on 17 February, with Auckland returning to level 1 on 22 February.
Auckland moved to level 3 from 28 February 2021, with the rest of New Zealand elevated to level 2 at the same time. All regions dropped one level on 7 March, with Auckland returning to level 1 on 12 March.