Nearly 600 facilities yet to apply for Federal Government’s COVID-19 staff retention bonus

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Only 1,500 applications have been received for the Government’s $235 million Staff Retention Bonus, leaving 584 still to apply for the program, according to evidence at yesterday’s Senate Select Committee hearing.

Aged Care Minister, Senator Richard Colbeck, had announced back in March, that the sector would receive $234.9 million to “ensure the continuity of the workforce” – amounting to two payments of up to $800 for direct care workers in residential care and two payments of up to $600 for home care workers.

The evidence revealed $54.7 million had been paid out as of 31 July in payments to providers with a further 500 applications approved amounting to $48.3 million in payments due out in mid-August.

Senator Gallagher also questioned why only direct care staff are eligible for the bonus.

The Minister replied that other staff were excluded because previous experience of outbreaks in aged care homes has shown it is personal carers and nurses who are reluctant to come to work in an outbreak.

“It’s a direct response to what we are seeing in facilties,” he said.

“It doesn’t set two standards?” Senator Gallagher asked, asking the Minister if he would reconsider extending it to other staff considering there is still “money in the budget”.

Minister Colbeck was saved from answering the question however by the Department’s Deputy Secretary for Ageing and Aged Care, Michael Lye, who said the Department now plans to follow up with homes that haven’t applied yet.

Senator Gallagher did ask the Minister to take the question of an extension on notice.

Could the scrutiny lead the Government to reconsider?