Why the win­ter pay­ment is late

The Press - - National News | Politics - HENRY COOKE

Of­fi­cials told Labour when it came to of­fice that a promised win­ter en­ergy ben­e­fit would have to kick in two months later than planned, at a cost of $184 to pen­sion­ers and ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Speak­ing to Stuff in her weekly in­ter­view, Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern ex­plained why the Win­ter En­ergy Pay­ment, which will usu­ally run MayOc­to­ber, will start later this year.

The Gov­ern­ment made clear the pay­ment would not be be­gin­ning on sched­ule when it re­leased its ‘‘mini-Bud­get’’ late last year, but this went mostly un­no­ticed at the time. The pay­ment will be­gin this year on July 1, a full two months later than every other year go­ing for­wards, when it will be­gin on May 1. It will grant every pen­sioner and per­son who re­ceives a ‘‘main ben­e­fit’’ an ex­tra $20.46 a week for sin­gles and $31.82 a week for cou­ples.

If it had be­gun in May, cou­ples would be re­ceiv­ing $700 a year while sin­gles would re­ceive $450.

Be­cause of the late start cou­ples will re­ceive $413.66 while sin­gles will re­ceive $265.98.

This will save the Gov­ern­ment roughly $161 mil­lion but Ardern said cost was not the rea­son for pay­ment start­ing a ‘‘few weeks’’ late. ‘‘Of­fi­cials said to us: that one is prob­a­bly one of the most sig­nif­i­cant changes you are go­ing to make to the wel­fare sys­tem in prob­a­bly a decade.

‘‘The ad­vice we got was: OK you can try to put this in but there’s a chance things could go wrong. And you can’t un­der­es­ti­mate how hard it is to im­ple­ment an en­tirely new pay­ment for such a large co­hort of peo­ple.’’

Of­fi­cials told Ardern that if the pay­ment be­gan on July 1, when other parts of their fam­i­lies pack­age like the Best Start pay­ment and changes to Work­ing For Fam­i­lies kick in, they could be sure it would work out.

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