Lately it seems like everything is going up in price, from a loaf of bread to a tank of petrol and all the way through to rents and house prices. From pandemic-related supply issues to the war in Ukraine, there are many global issues that have been driving up prices. In its annual budget, the Australian Government has announced some measures to help those struggling to keep up with the rising cost of essential goods and services.
1. Help with power bills
Sometimes it seems like power prices are also rising and you may be wondering whether the increases will ever end. The Government announced in the budget that it would deliver up to $3 billion in direct energy bill relief for eligible households and small businesses, co-funded with the states. That means more than five million households will have up to $500 million deducted from their power bills next financial year. Householders will also be able to access low-cost loans for double-glazing, solar panels, and other improvemnts that will make homes easier, and cheaper, to keep cool in summer and warm in winter.
2. Lower health costs
Out of pocket health care costs have also been rising and many families have been finding it difficult to keep up. Research has shown increasing numbers of Australians are delaying medical care because of soaring expenses. Some relief can be found in the budget. From September this year, instead of having to go back to their pharmacist every month, many people with common, chronic illnesses will be able to get two months’ worth of treatment for more than 300 different medicines. The Government said this change will save people up to $180 a year.
3. Income support
While unemployment is at historic lows, there are still a lot of Australians without a job. The budget includes a $40 per fortnight increase for JobSeeker recipients – plus those on Youth Allowance, Austudy and other income support payments. There is also extra support for the single biggest group of Australians on JobSeeker – those aged 55 and over. Until now, people aged 60 and over and on payments for a long time have received a higher rate, in recognition of the additional barriers they face finding work. However, the Government has recognised it gets more difficult earlier than that. The majority of people aged 55 and over on JobSeeker are women, many with little to no savings or superannuation, and who are at risk of homelessness. The new measures extend the extra support for those aged 60 and over to include Australians aged 55 and over. The Parenting Payment for single parents has also been extended so it will now be available to single parents until their youngest child turns 14, rather than eight. This will provide 57,000 families with an extra $176.90 per fortnight.
4. Housing affordability measures
If you are renting the home in which you live, you’ll know all too well that rising rents are one of the biggest drives of the escalating cost of living experienced by Australians. The budget provides additional income support to low-income households who rent. The Government is increasing the maximum rates of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 15 percent at a cost of $2.7 billion over five years.
There are also measures to help Australians into home ownership sooner. The Government is expanding the eligibility criteria of the Home Guarantee Scheme, which helps home buyers with a small deposit to avoid paying Lenders Mortgage Insurance.
Under the newly announced measures, eligibility for the First Home Guarantee and Regional First Home Guarantee will be expanded to any two eligible borrowers beyond married and de facto couples, and non-first home buyers who haven’t owned a property in Australia in the preceding 10 years.