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Prime Minister Daniel Andrews promises to maintain strict restrictions on Victorian businesses until June, even after the record loss of 594,000 jobs across the country last month.
About 2.7 million Australians – one fifth of the total working population – either quit their job or saw their hours reduced between March and April, the coronavirus crisis having caused an unprecedented shock in the country’s economy.
The unemployment rate is now 6.2% and the underemployment rate, covering workers who want more hours, climbed to a record 13.7 percent. Another 489,800 Australians have completely left the workforce.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a “terribly shocking” set of figures.
“Almost 600,000 jobs have been lost, each devastating to these Australians, their families, their communities,” he said.
The national cabinet will receive an economic briefing today as the federal government continues to push states to implement a three-step plan to ease the lockdowns, which are expected to bring 850,000 people back to work and boost the economy of $ 9.4 billion a month.
But while other states are turning to reopen cafes, restaurants and pubs With a limited number of customers, Victoria insists that they can only serve take-out until May 31.
Last night, the state government confirmed that it did not intend to adjust its restrictions until June.
Young Australians have suffered the full brunt of the economic crash triggered by the pandemic, with 37.3% of workers aged 15 to 24 – 767,900 people in total – now unemployed or underemployed.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg revealed that six million workers in 860,000 businesses now receive $ 1,500 a week in wage subsidies from the $ 130 billion JobKeeper program.
Another 1.6 million Australians receive JobSeeker and Youth Allowance.
Morrison said the government wants to reopen the economy to get people back to work.
“We don’t want an Australian economy supported by subsidies. We want an Australian economy supported by strong businesses, strong markets and great products and services that are competitive in a global market,” he said.
POSITION ON CAFES, CRITICAL RESTAURANTS
Wes Lambert, Australian restaurant and food chef, said in a Victorian parliamentary inquiry that he did not accept Mr. Andrews’ reasoning for keep cafes and restaurants closed.
“There are a lot of companies that would have accommodated 10 people financially,” he said.
“I would say that 20 customers are also not financially viable for many of the upscale, casual, gourmet, and big business restaurants in Victoria.”
“If that’s the reason, you may have to wait until July before resuming your meals.”
Chapel Street Precinct Association President Justin O’Donnell said the next three weeks “may not seem like a long time, but for many businesses it could make a world of difference whether they survive or no”.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said “devastating” unemployment data highlights need for government to extend JobKeeper program to casual workers who missed their jobs if they did not have held the same position for at least one year.
Business Council chief Jennifer Westacott said Australia was “better placed than most others” after the country successfully wiped out the virus, but added: “We will need an economy in growth to avoid a long tail of unemployment. ”
“The improvement in living standards and opportunities that Australians have built over the past 30 years will require more than simply returning to our pre-COVID-19 levels of investment and growth,” she said. declared.
FAMILIES FIGHTED TO ACCESS FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Families left in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic will have access to fresh fruits and vegetables thanks to a financial boost from the Victorian government.
Local business The Community Grocer will receive a $ 150,000 VicHealth grant today to bring high-quality, affordable fruits and vegetables to communities in Melbourne.
The group, which sells products at reduced prices on market stalls in public housing estates and community centers, will now be able to reach more disadvantaged people due to COVID-19.
VicHealth CEO Sandro Demaio said it is important that everyone has access to low-cost products, especially when they need it.
“It’s about putting fresher Victorian products in the hands of more Victorians,” said Dr. Demaio. “We are delighted to support The Community Grocer in expanding its fantastic work by providing local communities, especially those on low incomes, with convenient access to fresh and affordable products.”
Mom Ingrid Koomen has been a regular at the group’s Fitzroy market for three years.
She said it was the community spirit and the variety of fresh produce that she liked most.
“My kids love coming with me every week and helping me choose what to buy,” she said. “I love being able to get a decent amount of fruit and vegetables for a decent price.”
Community Grocer founder Russell Shields said the organization is experiencing increased demand due to the pandemic.
“We have spoken with clients who have lost their jobs and who are seriously concerned that they will be able to pay their bills or feed themselves and their families,” said Shields.
“We see a lot of new customers in our markets because the coronavirus has put more households at risk of food insecurity. This much needed boost from VicHealth will not only allow us to respond to the immediate increase in needs, but also to put in place systems to reach more people with more products in new community groups. “
The grant will be rolled out over the next 14 months to ensure that communities continue to have access to fresh produce.