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Changes Needed To Emergency Benefit Scheme To Ensure Effectiveness

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE: Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) and Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG)

Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) and the Union Network for Migrants (UNEMIG) have welcomed the Government’s decision to extend emergency benefits to temporary visa holders, but says it doesn’t make sense to refuse access to supplementary assistance.

"Extending emergency benefits to temporary visa holders, migrants, people on work visas and students experiencing hardship was the right thing to do, however we’re concerned that by refusing access to supplementary assistance the Government is effectively setting emergency benefits at a lower rate than main benefits, which we all know they’re not enough to live on," said Brooke Stanley Pao, Coordinator with Auckland Action Against Poverty.

"Migrant workers don’t have access to cheaper food or accommodation than anyone else; hardship is hardship, no matter your visa status," said UNEMIG spokesperson Mandeep Bela.

"Denying temporary visa holders access to supplementary assistance is a bonus for payday lenders and those in the business of migrant worker exploitation, as workers will continue to seek out income in the face of desperation."

Bela also suggested that the scheme would likely have to be extended.

"The WINZ and INZ systems have not been designed alongside one another, and many migrants will likely experience long wait times before their visa applications are granted."

"The industries that are crying out for workers will be looking for workers much further into next year than the end of February. Both workers and employers will benefit from the certainty of knowing this scheme will be extended, to ensure labour shortages will be able to be reliably filled."

Stanley Pao also suggested that migrant workers will experience difficulty navigating the WINZ system, underscoring the need for welfare reform.

"The Covid-19 wage subsidy was successful because it operated on a high trust model - it’s about time we extended the same high-trust model to people experiencing material hardship and trying to access benefits, whether local or migrant," said Stanley Pao.

"All the international evidence suggests that secure incomes are a key part of the public safety picture to beating Covid-19, and restricting supplementary assistance for migrant workers flies in the face of that evidence."

"This is crucial to maximising the effectiveness of this decision and ensuring migrant workers can be redeployed to plug our current labour shortage."

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