Victoria’s peak social advocacy body, VCOSS, is calling on the State Government to waive the COVID-era energy debts of struggling households.
“Unpaid energy bills ballooned during COVID,” VCOSS CEO Emma King said.
“The average energy debt for struggling households is now about $1,800, according to the Essential Services Commission,” she said.
“The Victorian Government could erase this debt with the stroke of a pen.”
VCOSS believes the debts should be wiped through a new Utility Debt Demolition Payment of up to $2,000, targeted at low-income households.
The one-off payment would cover water, gas and energy debts racked up during 2021.
“Nobody can recover after the pandemic under the weight of a giant energy debt,” Ms King said.
“The Utility Debt Demolition Payment would help ensure every Victorian can start rebuilding on an equal footing.”
The payment is a key recommendation from The Way Forward, VCOSS’s formal submission to the Victorian Government ahead of the 2022 budget
The social advocacy group is also recommending free myki cards for kids who struggle to afford the trip to school.
“This would slash the cost of school for cash-strapped parents and help increase school attendance for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Ms King said.
“This is another simple, sensible policy to ease the cost of living for struggling families,” Ms King said.
The Way Forward also calls on the Victorian Government to boost investment in employment pathways for disadvantaged jobseekers, improve mental health services and increase funding to combat violence in the home.