Coronavirus: Thousands of Kiwis apply for benefit after nationwide job losses

As the economic ramifications of COVID-19 start to bite, nearly 11,000 Kiwis applied for a benefit last week.

The staggering number follows a series of layoffs and business closures across New Zealand this week, including nearly 1500 Air New Zealand cabin crew and hundreds of SkyCity staff.

They may be some of the thousands of Kiwis who suddenly need to access a benefit. The Ministry of Social Development revealed on Thursday there were 22,500 benefit applications lodged last week. Although some were duplicates and others weren't eligible, 10,700 more New Zealanders were granted access to a benefit.

A former SkyCity worker, who has asked to remain anonymous, told Newshub that it's almost inevitable he will need a benefit.

"Having a young family sort of broke me, I guess. It was a hard pill to swallow. Just finding it hard to get by with the groceries," he says.

An increase in people needing a benefit is even more certain, given there aren't many jobs around at the moment.

Data from job search site Seek shows a 75.7 percent drop in job listings in the last two weeks compared to the same time last year. 

But Newshub can reveal a government department has caused even more pain to some.

Kainga Ora, formerly Housing New Zealand, has been forced to apologise to thousands of tenants after sending them rent increases after the Government had banned it. 

A copy of a notice sent to one dated April 2 says from April 7 your new rent will be $188.00 a week.

"It's very concerning, especially when they're the ones that are making the rules, but they're the ones that are breaking it," a Kainga Ora tenant told Newshub.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it should've "never happened".

"Those individuals have been called personally to have that apology given to them," she said on Thursday.

Kainga Ora told Newshub 6000 letters went out before the rent freeze because they have to give advance notice. They've contacted about half to apologise and won't be going ahead with increases. 

But since the freeze, they advised 57 more tenants of rent increases. They'll be calling to apologise to them too. And anyone already charged extra will be refunded.