Government handout saves Christmas bacon

CHRISTMAS would have been cancelled for the Andrew family of Murwillumbah if it was not for more than $8000 they are expecting to receive thanks to the Rudd government's $10.4 billion economic stimulus package.

Suzanne and Carl Andrew, with six children under eight years, are currently both unemployed and receiving the carers allowance and disability pension. For the struggling family the money could not have come at a better time, although it won't stretch a long way.

"If we didn't get the money from the government we wouldn't have been able to afford presents, especially living off the pension," Mrs Andrew said. "Our first priority is buying a few presents for the kids for Christmas. But after that, all the money will go on bills like the power, phone, pre-school and school fees. So most of it is already spent. "If there is any left over we'll put that aside to pay for our back-to-school needs."

With the children -- Hope 8, Brayden 7, Lauchlan 5, Miguel 3, Cuelita 20 months and Charlie seven months -- including big-cost items like the latest Play Station gaming consul, digital cameras, mobile phones and expensive interactive pet toys on their Christmas wish list, Mrs Andrew said even with the bonus payment, their wants are still beyond the family's budget.

"We should get a $6000 lump sum for the children, but we wont be spending that all on gifts for them," she said.

"The most we plan to spend is between $1700 and $2000, and that will be to buy all the gifts we need, the food and everything we need for Christmas."

Along with the $1000 for each child, Mr and Mrs Andrew will receive, as part of the Federal Government's Economic Security Strategy paid to families who are eligible for the Family Tax Benefit Part A; the carer and disability pensioners, will have an additional $2100, or $1050 each, put into their bank accounts, boosting the total lump sum payment to $8100. "Even though the gov-ernment wants us to spend all the money willy-nilly on big-cost items for the sake of the economy, we can't afford it," Mr Andrew said.

"We had a pretty bleak Christmas last year even though I was working. It's not cheap even if you have another source of income."

His wife agreed.

"Our priority is our family, keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table. But we are extremely thankful for the money."

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