Migrant workers stuck in New Zealand and suffering serious hardship because of the Covid-19 crisis will be able to access a $37.6 million support package.

The three month time-limited assistance programme will provide essentials like food, housing, petrol to get to a new job or the airport and over-the-counter medication but doesn't include cash payments.

But it comes with a warning from Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters: If you can't get back on your feet, you should leave New Zealand "as soon as possible".

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The Government estimates there's about 20,000 foreigners on temporary visas who are experiencing serious hardship.

The $37.6 million Assistance for Foreign Nationals impacted by Covid-19 Programme announced today would provide urgent assistance in the forms of:

• food and household goods
• blankets, hot water bottles and basic clothing
• over-the-counter medication to meet urgent and immediate needs
• accommodation (including rent, boarding costs and rent arrears)
• utilities like electricity and gas, but excludes internet and broadband connection and plans
• if required, pre-paid phone cards to enable emergency communication and communication with their consulate or embassy
• petrol or travel if needed to shift to new location for employment purposes or to the airport to leave New Zealand.

And the package will only be provided to temporary visa holders if:

• returning home isn't immediately possible
• the person is experiencing serious hardship, and
• all other avenues of potential support have been exhausted, such as access to savings or other assets, insurance cover, consular assistance from their own foreign missions, or help from family and friends.

The funding, announced by Peters and Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector Poto Williams, will replace the assistance struggling migrants workers got through the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Groups.

It will be administered by the Department of Internal Affairs and delivered by a yet-to-be-announced community-based NGO from July 1. It will run for three months.

Peters said some foreign nationals and migrant workers had found themselves in a "tight spot" because of the pandemic.

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But he warned if they should be "seeking to depart New Zealand as soon as possible if they cannot support themselves here" and to contact their embassy or consulate for assistance in the first instance.

The Government was continuing to work with foreign missions to assist their citizens, including with repatriation efforts, Peters said.

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