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Record 1.4 million people relying on food charity as recession bites

There were now 1.4 million people getting support, up from 815,000 before the pandemic, with no signs of a slowdown as international students, seniors, single parents and temporary visa holders turn to the charity for help.

Ms Casey said it appeared peak demand, especially in areas still recovering from natural disasters such as this year’s bushfires and floods, had not been reached with growing concerns about September when support measures are due to end.

“We are nervous about the proposed timing of the removal of JobKeeper, JobSeeker and the coronavirus supplement,” she said.

“We are doing our best to keep up with demand but the sheer number of new recipients is making this difficult.

“If we reach do this point that we all term ‘the cliff’, where these additional measures come off, I’m deeply concerned about what will happen to demand for food relief and our ability to keep up with that.”

JobKeeper and JobSeeker are due to end in late September. The government is considering a Treasury review of the schemes, with the results due to be released with a budget update on July 23. JobKeeper is likely to be modified with a focus on regions hit hard by the coronavirus recession.

The Red Cross revealed that this time last year it was looking after about 620 temporary visa holders. It is now supporting more than 14,000, with many losing their jobs, unable to qualify for financial or medical assistance.

St Vincent de Paul chief executive officer Toby oConnor said his organisation’s client base had changed during the recession.

The ATO website was overwhelmed on the day Australians were able to access a second tranche of $10,000 from their superannuation.

The ATO website was overwhelmed on the day Australians were able to access a second tranche of $10,000 from their superannuation.Credit:Gabriele Charotte

“Traditional” clients were either getting assistance under JobSeeker or too afraid to come into stores for help, but there had been a surge in asylum seekers, international students and casual workers.

As part of its suite of measures to help people through the recession, the Morrison government has allowed those suffering financial hardship to dip into retirement savings in two lots of $10,000. The second tranche began on Wednesday.

The ATO’s online services crashed on Wednesday because of a high volume of traffic to the website.

Superannuation fund sources speculated there could be a rush of applications within the first few days of the financial year for those looking to gain access to their retirement money. APRA said last week that a high volume of applications were expected during the first week of July.

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Australian Prudential and Regulation Authority data released on Monday showed 2.4 million people had applied between April 20 and June 21 to access their super with $17.1 billion paid. When the scheme was announced, the government expected $27 billion to be withdrawn over a six month period.

UNSW Professor Robert Deutsch, a senior tax counsel at The Tax Institute, said a flood of people seeking early release of super was a possible reason for the crash.

“Another possible cause is a flood of people trying to lodge tax returns to secure early refunds. It is however too early to achieve any outcomes as the ATO systems are not ready and PAYG year end summary statements still need to issue from employers,” he said.

An ATO spokesman said people trying to lodge tax returns or applications for superannuation early-release had been “experiencing issues” with the systems, and fixing the problem was a priority.

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