Australians can get up to $6,000 in cash if they relocate to regional areas for farm work for just six weeks – but thousands have turned down the offer and opted to stay on the JobKeeper scheme.
Despite the cash payment introduced a month ago, just 148 people have signed up to the program aimed at providing an extra incentive to relocate to country areas.
Farms across the country have been scrambling to fill 26,000 jobs to harvest and pack produce after COVID-19 travel bans decimated their seasonal workforce.
A new campaign from Wednesday will urge young Australian to look for regional farm work (pictured: Fruit picker Wayne Smith harvests oranges on a farm near Leeton, NSW, Thursday, October 1, 2020)
Pacific Islander workers (pictured) were recently allowed to bypass travel bans to take on farm work – though the number who have flown into the country is only about 1,000
In March this year, the government introduced the generous JobKeeper scheme – which gave workers stood down from their job during lockdown a paycheck of up to $1,500 a month.
On Wednesday, a renewed push will begin to encourage young Australians aged between 18 and 30 to look for regional work and help get fruit, vegetables and grain into supermarkets.
The Harvest Trail social media campaign will target about 400,000 residents and visa holders across New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria.
The three states are struggling to fill jobs for produce pickers, planters, and packers advertised at a recent job fair.
Despite the demand, the National Harvest Virtual Jobs Fair held in October only had 2,716 attendees.
International workers from the Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme picking strawberries in Queensland
To access the cash, a job seeker must sign a Relocation Assistance agreement before they temporarily move for the farm work.
THE GOVERNMENT’S JOBKEEPER SCHEME
Employers can access stimulus payments to keep workers in their jobs during COVID-19 lockdowns:
Up until 27 September 2020, employees would earn $1,500 per fortnight.
From the 28th September onwards, they will instead earn $750 or $1,200 depending on their worked hours earlier in the year.
From 4 January 2021 onwards this rate is lowered to $650 or $1,000.
The scheme is set to end on March 28.
Invoices and receipts linked to the employment will need to be kept – such as accommodation for the six weeks, petrol, food, and work clothes – then these will then be reimbursed by the government.
Items can only be claimed within 28 days of when the work commenced and the person needs to have worked at the job for at least six weeks or 120 hours.
Australian workers can claim a maximum of $6,000, while visa holders working in the country can claim up to $2,000.
Pacific Islander workers were recently allowed to bypass travel bans to take on farm work – though the number who have flown into the country is only about 1,000.
A plane carrying 150 more Timorese workers is scheduled to arrive in Tasmania on Wednesday night.
‘I want as many job seekers to consider a seasonal job because we know that our farmers are desperate for more workers,’ Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said on Tuesday.
‘The pandemic has been devastating particularly for young Australians, which is why the offer of seasonal work is such a great opportunity to earn a wage.’
More information on the government’s Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job for short-term Agricultural work can be found on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.
Industry groups have warned the price of fresh produce could increase from a lack of farm labour workers
ITEMS WHICH CAN BE CLAIMED
▪ Non-rent commercial accommodation at new location (including but not limited to caravan parks, cabins, motels, boarding houses, campsite fee)
▪ Rent at new location (excluding rental bonds)
▪ Camping equipment up to $250 per participant for core camping items including shelter and bedding
▪ Where the accommodation cost includes some meal items, for example, breakfast or a small packed lunch and these costs can be included in the accommodation invoice, these costs can be reimbursed, except for prohibited items such as alcohol.
▪ Plane, bus, train tickets and fees (the most direct route and the method that provides the most value for money, except in exceptional circumstances)
▪ Baggage allowances
▪ Car hire and car hire insurance
▪ Fuel (the most direct route and only on agreed travel days)
▪ In-transit accommodation costs
▪ Costs for return travel to the original location using the most direct route
▪ $40 flat rate, per travel day, per participant, towards food costs
▪ Safety Clothing
▪ Uniforms (if not provided by the employer)
Source: Department of Education Skills and Employment
Source: Daily Mail Australia | World News