Hunter Labor MPs do not want the JobSeeker payment to go back to the pre-coronavirus rate of $40 per day, saying many of those claiming the welfare allowance will not be able to keep a roof over their head if it does.
In response to reports the government is considering raising the payment rate by $75 a week when the six-month period of enhanced payments ends in September, federal opposition MPs Meryl Swanson, Pat Conroy, Sharon Claydon and Joel Fitzgibbon all said they supported a higher rate.
Shortland MP Pat Conroy slammed the government for sending "mixed signals" about the future status of welfare and stimulus payments after it denied it was considering raising the JobSeeker rate on Sunday.
"The government is sending very mixed signals about both JobKeeper and JobSeeker," he said.
"This uncertainty is adding to people's deep worries about the recession."
The JobSeeker payment, previously Newstart, was effectively doubled to about $1100 a fortnight in March.
Mr Conroy said constituents who lost work and were now claiming the payment had contacted him in "significant numbers" and were "really worried" about the looming end of the extra rate.
"They are worried about how they will be able to feed their kids and keep a roof above their heads if the payment is cut," he said. "Almost a million people have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and they need the full support of the government. The rate cannot go back to $40 a day."
Paterson MP Meryl Swanson said the pre-coronavirus rate "was not enough to meet people's basic needs".
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"With unemployment rising and an increasing number of people claiming JobSeeker, the government needs to come up with a payment that is both adequate for people to live on, and fiscally responsible," she said.
As reported by the Newcastle Herald late last week, Newcastle's unemployment rate hit 10 per cent in May, up from 7.8 per cent in April and 3.1 per cent in May 2019.
The rate had not hit double figures since January 2003.
Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon said groups like the Australian Business Council, Australian Industry Group, Council of Small Business Organisations had recognised the former rate of JobSeeker "does nothing but entrench poverty, cripple people's quality of life and make it virtually impossible for them to find work".
"The increased rate ... has returned dignity to so many people's lives. People in Newcastle are telling me they no longer have to choose between necessities like heating the house or eating three meals a day," she said.
"There is now grave anxiety about the dire impacts of a 'snap-back' on job seekers and the local economy alike."
Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon added: "With twice as many people now dependent on the unemployment benefit its inconceivable the government could let the payment go back to the old rate."
"The hardship and social consequences would be significant," he said.