Virus cheques going on bills and mortgages

People given coronavirus support payments from the federal government are most likely to spend the money on household bills and mortgages.

One in three Australians received government stimulus cheques in May, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found.

Almost half of Tasmanian adults received the payments, well above the national rate of 32 per cent.

Older people were most likely to add the money to savings or purchase food and furniture.

People aged under 65 spent the cheques on household bills, mortgages and other debts.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has raised the prospect of spending more on income support if needed.

Senator Cormann has reaffirmed plans to start scaling back JobKeeper wage subsidies from September, but opened the door to extending the program beyond March if required.

“Right now our intention is to phase out this crisis level fiscal support – unprecedented levels of crisis level fiscal support, in the form of JobKeeper – by the end of March,” he told the Seven Network on Monday.

“But in the end, as we have done in the past, we will continue to respond to the facts as they emerge.”

Victoria’s deadly second wave of coronavirus has destabilised the national economy.

Labor has warned slashing the JobSeeker unemployment benefit at the end of this year would rip millions of dollars from the retail sector.

The dole has been increased from $560 to $1100 a fortnight through a supplement payment, which is only guaranteed until December.

About 2.2 million working age people are receiving the supplement.

Labor has found about 58 per cent of social security recipients are spending their payments on retail goods or services.

Opposition social services spokeswoman Linda Burney said cutting JobSeeker in December as planned would rip $327 million per fortnight from retail.

“It also threatens the jobs and livelihoods of millions of Australians who work in the retail sector,” she said.

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