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Melbourne student in ‘scary position’ after supplement cut

When Carina Mammone checked her bank account to see her Coronavirus Supplement payment had nearly halved, she was left with an unthinkable decision.
For the 22-year-old Melbourne university student it meant a choice between eating three meals a day or focusing on her mental health.
Melbourne student Carina Mammone was left to choose between eating three meals a day and being able to see her psychologist after the Coronavirus Supplement was cut. (Supplied)
“It’s a really scary position to be in,” Ms Mammone told 9news.com.au
The Australian Government’s Coronavirus Supplement – which is available for people who receive eligible income support payments – was cut by almost half last month from $500 per fortnight to $250.

From 1 January 2021, the supplement will be axed completely.

Weeks on from the initial cuts and welfare recipients are already feeling the pinch.

Since Ms Mammone moved out of her family home in Mildura, in northwest Victoria, four years ago to study she has received Youth Allowance and been financially independent.

“I’ve always been a pretty hard worker,” the Deakin University student said.

“So, to be in a position where I have to be desperate for money and being really smart about where it is going, it’s a whole different lifestyle for me.”

Carina Mammone, a full-time university student, normally works multiple casual jobs. (Supplied)
Before COVID-19, Ms Mammone was working two casual jobs which she said was “more than enough to get by.”

But after she lost her main source of income in April, and her shifts at her second job dropped to just three hours a week, things have drastically changed.

“The most immediate impact of COVID-19 was that I lost most of my work, but the supplement payment meant money wasn’t really a problem,” she said.

“I had enough money to pay rent and utilities, not miss any meals and see my psychologist – but I imagine that will change now that my payments have been halved.”

With the original Coronavirus Supplement payment, and Youth Allowance Ms Mammone had about $700 a week to survive. From that, $760 would go toward rent every month and $100 for utilities.

In September, the cuts reduced her government support by $200 a week.

What happens once JobKeeper payments stop
From 1 January 2021, the Coronavirus Supplement will be completely axed. (AAP)

“It is going to be a bit of a jump as my rent, utilities and food will eat up most of my payments,” she said.

“I’m going to have to start being smart about how often I see my psychologist.”

For Ms Mammone, relying on her parents isn’t an option – leaving the student to choose between necessities.

“Instead of seeing my psychologist once a fortnight, it might have to be monthly or even less than that,” she said.

“Once you start doing that, the appointments don’t really work well – so it questions whether it is worth it all together.

“I’ll have to eat the same food every week, so I know how much it is going to cost me.”

Lucky for Ms Mammone, her age now classifies her as an independent student. Her Youth Allowance payment will increase by $200 per week – enough to cover the supplement’s shortfall.

“I am still stressed about what my situation will be post-December when the supplement ends,” she said.

“It’s so important to share what young people are going through because I am probably better-off now compared to some.”

That is the case for Jasmin Walker, an engineering student at Melbourne’s Monash University, who says she can no longer afford her rent.

“On the current payment rate, I am having to make decisions between groceries and rent,” Ms Walker said.

“Me and my housemates are in the process of getting a rent reduction because we are now rent stressed.”

Jasmin Walker, an engineering student at Melbourne’s Monash University, says she can no longer afford her rent. (Supplied)

Without work due to the pandemic, Ms Walker has been dipping into her savings to survive. But she says the funds are drying up.

Australian wellbeing support organisation Beyond Blue said there have been significant mental health challenges due to changed social and economic circumstances prompted by the pandemic.

“If you have lost your job, you are likely to feel more in control and less stressed if you take steps to help improve your situation,” a Beyond Blue spokesperson said.

“There are many helpful things you can do to help you cope at this time – remind yourself that it’s OK to feel unsure about the future, be patient with yourself -recovery from any significant setback takes time.”

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Source: 9News

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