13 May 2020
As the nation wakes to Alert Level 2 tomorrow and many of the restrictions on daily life are relaxed, Otago Civil Defence and Emergency Management (Otago CDEM) won’t be relaxing its approach to welfare support.
The dedicated Otago Helpline, established during Alert Level 4, will continue to operate, providing much needed support to those in Otago without food and other daily essentials.
“While Level 2 will bring back some normality to many of us, for some it will not bring back the jobs lost and their struggle will continue,” said Laurence Voight, Alternate Group Controller for Otago CDEM.
“Parts of Otago’s economy are unlikely to be able to operate at pre-COVID levels for some time and this will impact jobs and household incomes in our region. Overseas citizens on work permits who no longer have a job need to consider whether they can move elsewhere in NZ to find work, or talk to Immigration NZ about their visa status and ability to remain in New Zealand. “
Since the lockdown began, the total requests for assistance received by Otago CDEM has surpassed 13 380 and over 8,000 food parcels or vouchers have been distributed. These efforts have been supported by over 700 volunteers who registered with Volunteering Otago or Volunteering Central.
As well as New Zealanders seeking assistance, many requests for help have come from foreign nationals in the Queenstown Lakes area. Earlier this week Otago CDEM announced that they, along with New Zealanders, would be able to apply for assistance with rent, power and gas bills if they were not eligible for support from other places.
“People can apply for help with their rent, boarding fees, hostel feels, electricity or gas. It takes the pressure off those who are worried about where they will live if they have to move out due to unpaid bills,” said Mr Voight.
Since the announcement was made on Monday afternoon over 90 applications for rent have been made.
The accommodation and utilities support is available for any foreign nationals in Otago who meet the criteria,. New Zealand citizens and permanent residents who need support with accommodation should contact Work and Income New Zealand first. If they do not qualify for welfare support from Work and Income they may be provided support from CDEM.
The Otago Welfare Helpline operates 9am to 5pm on 0800 322 4000 and by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Those unable to pay their rent and power/gas bills due to the impact of COVID-19 can apply for assistance via an online form at www.otagocdem.govt.nz