Key Points:

Labour's bad-times allowance would effectively give a working couple $2000 if one of them is made redundant - but single workers and couples with a non-working partner would get nothing new.

The job search allowance would be given to the partner who lost his or her job whatever the income of the other working partner.

But it would not be entirely universal. The allowance would be abated against the income of the qualifying partner on income earned over $80 a week. It reduces by 70c for every additional dollar earned from other income that might include interest on shares, or rental properties.

So the abatement would begin on income over $4160 and would abate to zero over $17,500.

Prime Minister Helen Clark announced the estimated $50 million package yesterday, pre-empting National's proposals to be announced today to offset job losses because of the global economic crisis.

The job search allowance of $153.46 a week for up to 13 weeks would not be available to those who resigned or were sacked for reasons other than the economic downturn.

It is the same rate as the dole, the difference being that the income of the person's spouse or partner would not affect their entitlement, which at present rules out most people with a working partner.

Helen Clark justified the eligibility rules saying the allowance recognised working couples who could not previously get the dole.

"Under the old system, if you are a single person and lose your job, you can qualify for unemployment benefit. If you are a couple and both of you are working and one loses the job, there has been absolutely nothing for you.

"Yet in all likelihood you have geared your outgoings up to two of you being in work - your mortgage, hire-purchase and so-on."

This meant well-off people could get the allowance, but Helen Clark suggested wealthy people might not want to go to Work and Income.

"It's a moot point whether they would risk going down to the local Work and Income office, I'm sure."

Helen Clark said the allowance was simple, because "it doesn't require bureaucrats making a whole lot of decisions whether people are deserving or whether they are likely to get back into work".

"It's saying if you've been in the workforce for five years and lose your job, you are entitled to the job search allowance."

Helen Clark said the cost of the allowance would depend on how many people lost their jobs because of the economic crisis, and Labour's estimate was $50 million "at the outside".

The party would make the transitional allowance a permanent fixture.

National leader John Key said its package would be a similar size, but better structured.

Mr Key said it appeared that Labour's policy was not designed to "hit the mark", but rather to divert from its digging on his involvement with the H-Fee scandal.

National finance spokesman Bill English said the package would help only people in a household where someone else is working, and misses those most in need.

"It's hard to understand why Labour has done nothing for households who lose all income through redundancy, such as a couple where one person's at home with children, or a sole parent who loses their job.

"If one person in a household is working and the other is at home with the children, you get nothing from this package when you lose your job.

"But a couple both working will get the full couple rate of unemployment benefit if one is made redundant."

WHAT'S NEW?
$153.46 a week for up to 13 weeks for a person made redundant if his or her partner is working.