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Emergency Benefit Better Late Than Never

Community Law welcomes the Government announcement that people on temporary work, student or visitor visas who can’t return home or support themselves will have access to the emergency benefit.

“It is appropriate that Minister Sepuloni has used her power under the Social Security Act to grant emergency benefits to migrant workers because of the epidemic. This current situation where thousands of migrant workers have lost their jobs through an epidemic and through no fault of their own is the very reason that this power exists in the legislation,” says Community Law Centres O Aotearoa CEO, Sue Moroney.

“We first raised this option with the Ministry of Social Development in April while New Zealand was in its first level 4 lockdown.”

Community Law clients are among those temporary visa holders with no income while the world deals with Covid-19.

“The Civil Defence Emergency Management funds and then the Foreign Nationals package provided useful additional support for those suddenly trapped here without income, but they were never a satisfactory substitute for access to the emergency benefit which is designed for this purpose,” says Sue.

“These ad hoc approaches have been difficult for migrants to access and navigate. The emergency benefit already has systems and processes in place, making it more straightforward to access and administer.”

“Today’s decision has been a long time coming for people struggling to survive. We hope the Government would recognise the need for it more quickly should a pandemic response be needed again in the future.”

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