The Community Recovery Centre at Andergrove.
The Community Recovery Centre at Andergrove. Madolyn Peters

Send more staff to speed up emergency payment process, Federal MP says

FEDERAL Member for Dawson George Christensen is calling on the Queensland Government to urgently get their systems right and send more staff to process emergency payments face to face for people affected by Cyclone Debbie rather than put them through any more stress from having to deal with a dysfunctional call centre in their hour of need.

"I am appalled to hear that so many people in Airlie Beach, Cannonvale, Proserpine, Bowen and Mackay are being told they are not eligible, or not in an affected area, when they phone up to access the NDRRA hardship assistance and essential services grants," Mr Christensen said yesterday.

"My advice from the office of the State Minister responsible is that this is due to software glitches.

"While I have also been told that the problem has now been rectified, there are probably hundreds of people who have been denied when they are stressed out and hurting, and it is truly disgraceful.

"I made calls on Friday when I was first alerted to the situation, and yesterday as the problem continued to escalate I have been on to both the office of the State Minister for Communities who is responsible for administering the payments, and my Federal counterpart the Minister for Justice to urge further action.

"The fact is that the NDRRA, Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, is jointly funded by the State and Federal governments, with 75% coming from the Federal Government.

"The task of administering the assistance lies with the Queensland Government. That started off badly and only got worse as more and more people were let down.

"I am told that the process is generally going smoothly when people attend one of the community centres to claim a payment face-to-face but I am also told there are queues streaming out the door at some of these centres. I ask that the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk provide more staff urgently to ensure that people can get the assistance when they need it and that is right now."

Hundreds were queueing at Mackay's Community Recovery Hubs at the MECC and Andergrove Community Hall.

People in the line-up on Saturday were becoming agitated, some saying they had been lining up for up to fours hours in order to talk to someone or get assistance.

Details of assistance payments available for affected residents in both Mackay and Whitsunday LGA.

NDRRA Immediate Hardship Assistance Grant

  • Payment of $180 per person up to $900 for a family of 5 or more.

This is available for those who:

NDRRA Immediate Hardship Assistance - Essential Services Grant

  • $150 per person, up to $750 for a family of 5 or more

This is available for those who meet the following criteria:

  • be directly impacted by the loss of 1 or more essential services for more than 5 days as a direct result of an eligible disaster
  • be suffering hardship
  • experienced loss of:
  • - electricity, including other forms experienced loss of power supply, which is the only source of power to your property
  • - gas, including bottled gas, if the principal place of residence is gas only (if electricity is connected, then gas alone does not qualify for assistance
  • - water, including water tanks where principal place of residence is reliant on tank water, but only where an alternate source of water is not supplied.
  • Details: https://www.qld.gov.au/.../essential-services-grant/index.html

Detail of further assistance provided by the Federal Government for Whitsunday Local Government Area residents only.

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment

This is a one off payment for people who have been significantly affected by flood and storm-damage.

It is a payment of $1000 per adult and $400 for each child under 16 years of age.

To be eligible you must meet the following criteria:

  • you are an Australian resident
  • you are 16 years or older at the time of the cyclone or are receiving a social security payment
  • you have not already received a Disaster Recovery Payment for Queensland Tropical Cyclone Debbie - March 2017
  • you have experienced one or more of the following, as a direct result of the cyclone:

 

you have been seriously injured

you are the immediate family member of an Australian citizen who died

at least 25% of the interior of your principle place of residence has been affected by the cyclone

at least 25% of the interior of your principle place of residence has been exposed to the elements

your principle place of residence has been destroyed or must be demolished

the interior of your residence has been affected by sewerage contamination

your principle place of residence has been declared structurally unsound

you are the principal carer of a dependent child who has experienced any of the above

You may need to provide evidence to support your claim.

Details: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/.../tropical-cyclone-debbie-...

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Allowance

This is a short term (13 week) payment to assist individuals who can demonstrate their income has been affected as a direct result of a declared disaster. It is payable for a maximum of 13 weeks from the date at which you have, or will have, a loss of income as a direct result of the cyclone. The Disaster Recovery Allowance is taxable.

To be eligible you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • you are 16 years of age or older at the time of the cyclone and are not a dependent child
  • you are an Australian resident or the holder of a permanent or Special Category visa
  • you derive an income by working in the affected area or reside in the affected area
  • you have experienced a loss of income as a direct result of Tropical Cyclone Debbie - March 2017
  • you are not receiving an income support payment or pension such as Age Pension, Newstart Allowance, Farm Household Allowance, or a Service Pension from the Department of Veterans' Affairs for the same period you are claiming this payment
  • your income is less than the relevant income threshold amount in the fortnight following the loss of income

Details: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/.../tropical-cyclone-debbie-...

Other points to note:

  • There are larger payments available under the NDRRA for people who have lost their home and contents.
  • There are also further assistance measures for small business owners and primary producers.
  • Not all NDRRA arrangements have been activated yet as assessments of damage to business and farms is still underway.

 

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