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Rent freeze, temporary visa help in Tas

Tasmania will provide payments for cash-strapped temporary visa holders and put a freeze on rent rises because of the coronavirus pandemic.

One-off payments of $250 for temporary visa holders suffering financial hardship and up to $1000 for families are part of the $3 million package being rolled out from Wednesday.

Premier Peter Gutwein says it is a time to show kindness to those who have contributed to the state.

“These visitors from overseas have helped build a stronger Tasmania, a more diverse Tasmania and a more skilled Tasmania,” he said.

“I don’t agree with the simple message that temporary visa holders should just go home. In many cases, they can’t.”

Tasmania has about 26,000 temporary visa holders, many of whom have been hit hard by business closures in the tourism industry.

The state government is also putting a freeze on residential rent rises until at least June 30.

It comes after an edict was issued early this month preventing rental evictions until the same date.

As part of the aid package, funding has been increased for non-government organisations to provide emergency relief for temporary visa holders.

The state government also pledged to provide travel advice and financial support to help people return home when it is safe to do so.

Employers will be provided with assistance to retain skilled workers.

“If any of us had children on the other side of the world, we hope they’d receive some sort of support,” Mr Gutwein said.

State Labor welcomed the move but called on the government and Canberra to do more for visa holders.

Tasmania had recorded 201 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday but just one new case was confirmed on Tuesday, the state’s lowest daily increase this month.

More than half of those cases are linked with an outbreak at two Burnie hospitals in the northwest, which has forced 1200 healthcare staff to be quarantined and the facilities to close.

The number of new daily cases linked to the outbreak has fallen recently after a spike across the Easter holidays.

People in the state with virus symptoms, particularly in the northwest, are being urged to get tested.

Strict retail restrictions specific to the northwest could be eased this weekend but Mr Gutwein said a decision would be made based on health advice and how testing progresses.

Eight people have died from the virus in Tasmania and 77 have recovered.

Out of 10,000 police compliance checks, 144 people have been charged with breaking stay-at-home laws.

Originally published as Rent freeze, temporary visa help in Tas

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