Coronavirus stimulus payments spent on household bills, added to savings

Most Australians receiving government stimulus payments are using them to pay household bills and debts, new figures from the statistics bureau show.

The numbers also show fewer people were feeling concerned about their health and taking personal COVID-19 safety precautions in June.

Bureau of Statistics figures released on Monday show a small increase in the numbers of Australians receiving a government stimulus payment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, rising from 32 per cent in May to 35 per cent in June.

More than 40 per cent of recipients spent most of their payment on bills or debts in June, while 27 per cent added it to their savings.

Among other uses for the government payments were buying food and drinks (9 per cent), purchasing other household supplies (7.5 per cent) and household furnishings and equipment (4.7 per cent).

The bureau's June survey showed that Canberrans, counted with Northern Territory residents in the data, were the most likely to use the payments for bills and debts. About 60 per cent used the payments mainly to pay their mortgage or rent, household bills or personal debts.

Deloitte economist Chris Richardson said the bureau figures were good news but reflected the state of the economy before Victoria's second wave of coronavirus infections took hold. Government payments had been delivered quickly compared to the Global Financial Crisis and other countries, he said.

The bureau's latest figures, along with recent retail data, showed the pandemic had not scared households into a prolonged halt to spending, Mr Richardson said.

Economist Saul Eslake said the bureau data might reflect quarterly billing cycles, but also that people out of work or receiving less income may have exhausted savings and needed to prioritise paying expenses by June.

"To the extent that the assistance is helping people put food on the table, pay rent and other household essentials, the assistance is obviously helping people who would otherwise be experiencing poverty, or other forms of financial, emotional stress, avoid those outcomes," he said.

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Bureau data showed concerns about the personal health risks from COVID-19 appeared to fall between May and June.

More than half of Australians (54 per cent) said they felt either concerned or very concerned at the time of the survey in June, down from 62 per cent.

While fewer people were washing their hands, touching their face less and taking other COVID-19 safety precautions, the number of people changing their behaviour in response to the pandemic remained high.

Canberrans and Northern Territorians were less likely to wear a face mask than the national average, but were washing or sanitising their hands and avoiding public places more in comparison to interstate.

Bureau of Statistics figures released on Monday show a small increase in the numbers of Australians receiving a government stimulus payment. Picture: Shutterstock

Bureau of Statistics figures released on Monday show a small increase in the numbers of Australians receiving a government stimulus payment. Picture: Shutterstock

This story How we spent our government COVID stimulus money first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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