Why the winter payment is late
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.