Wagga's St Vincent de Paul Society was "pleased" to see a permanent $50-per-fortnight increase to unemployment payments after years of campaigning to stop job seekers falling into poverty.
"It's never enough but the fact that the government has conceded and seriously looked at increasing it is a great thing" Wagga Central society president Peter Burgess said.
"Obviously it won't drag everybody out of poverty but it is a step in the right direction."
Prime Minster Scott Morrison announced the new base rate yesterday and said Australia "no longer need to rely on the emergency supports which have sustained us over the past 12 months."
The new rate will start on April 1, just after the coronavirus supplement ends in late March, which would have returned JobSeeker to the pre-pandemic Newstart Allowance level of about $550 per fortnight.
People on JobSeeker will be able to work for up to $150 per fortnight without affecting their payments.
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Mr Burgess said the increase would be felt most by unemployed people in Wagga's private rental market.
"They will find making ends meet a bit easier because less of a percentage of their money will go on rental, and for some people that's huge," he said.
"Some people spend more than half their money to put a roof over their head."
Department of Social Services figures show the number of unemployment payments across the Riverina continued to decline over eight months but remains 38 per cent higher than before the pandemic.
Wagga and the surrounding small towns had 3118 people on JobSeeker during January, down from 3240 a month before and a peak of 3750 in May last year.
Mr Burgess said the end of JobKeeper wage subsidies in late March could create another spike in jobless numbers for Wagga.
"People who have been on JobKeeper for insecure employment; they're going to find themselves unemployed and they will find [increased JobSeeker] payments very beneficial," he said.
Riverina MP and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the government was taking "fair and sustainable" measures "to ensure those looking for employment are given the best opportunity to find work".
"The best form of welfare is a job. There are around 54,000 jobs in the regions, according to the latest Regional Australia Institute figures," he said.
Labor Senator Deborah O'Neill said the level of the increase was "an insult to those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic"
"An increase of $50 a fortnight as people in the Riverina continue to struggle back from COVID is woefully inadequate," she said.
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