Feds, state and power companies must do more.
With thousands of Dandenong Ranges residents facing an extended period without power and internet services, VCOSS is calling on utility providers and the Victorian and Federal governments to provide more formal emergency support.
“No power means no electric heating, no way to refrigerate fresh food and limited cooking and lighting options,” VCOSS CEO Emma King said.
“Internet outages make it difficult for many people to access essential government services, such as MyGov or the Services Australia website.”
“Many residents are also temporarily without an income, as local businesses remain shut, tourists are asked to stay away and casual shifts are cancelled.”
Ms King said community organisations across the state have stepped-up in recent days, as they always do, but with outages in the Dandenongs now set to last weeks, more formal support is required.
Specific measures VCOSS is calling for include:
The Victorian Government:
- Relax the application process and eligibility criteria for the existing Personal Hardship Assistance Program, so affected residents can access money sooner and for longer.
- Make an immediate cash injection to frontline charities, so they can keep providing essential services (including food) on the ground.
- Work with local councils to open more temporary accommodation facilities for displaced people and their pets.
The Federal Government:
- Declare the storm a natural disaster, triggering support payments under the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment scheme.
- Make formal plans to support people over the long-term, with a series of discounts, deferrals and payment plans.
Ms King said employers must also show compassion and leniency, with many people unable to leave the mountain to attend work.
“The storm damage won’t end the day that power is restored. It’s going to take a long time for people to recover, rebuild and recoup their losses.”
“They must be supported over the long-term,” Ms King said.