COVID -19 changes: Government Assistance

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Parliament House, Canberra

Seven changes you need to know about

  1. COVID-19 government financial assistance has changed to reflect the easing of movement restrictions and the changing testing, isolation and close contact regulations across the country.
  2. The COVID-19 Disaster Payment claiming periods have closed and the payment is no longer available.
  3. For people who do not receive a Centrelink payment, the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment will be available to eligible people who can’t earn an income because they, or someone they’re caring for, has to self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19.
  4. For people who already receive a Centrelink income support payment, the COVID-19 Crisis Payment is available to eligible people if they have to self-isolate or quarantine or are caring for someone in isolation.
  5. Centrelink may grant an exemption from mutual obligation requirements for up to 14 days if a person is either self-isolating or caring for someone who needs to self-isolate.
  6. Some State and Territory Governments are also providing a one-off support payment to eligible residents who need to self-isolate and are unable to work while waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test.
  7. If you are a sole trader or small business and you’ve been adversely impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns, travel restrictions or global supply chain disruptions you may be eligible to receive financial assistance from your State or Territory government.

What do the changes mean?

If your income has reduced, you are affected by COVID-19 and must self-isolate or quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 test (yourself, a close contact or someone you care for) you should apply for all Commonwealth Government and/or state or territory government assistance payments you may be eligible for.

The Centrelink Payment and Service Finder can help you understand what Centrelink payments and other government assistance you could be eligible to receive.

COVID-19 Disaster Payment

The COVID-19 Disaster Payment was a support payment for workers whose income was adversely affected by state and territory lockdowns and movement restrictions.

Claiming periods have closed and the COVID-19 Disaster Payment is no longer available.

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

You may be eligible for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment if you can’t work and earn income and:

  • you have been directed to self-isolate or quarantine by your State or Territory Government because you’re a close contact of a confirmed case or you have COVID-19; or
  • you’re caring for someone who has COVID-19.

This payment is for people who are employed but are unable to go to work and earn an income, have no appropriate leave entitlements, are at least 17 years old, are an Australian resident. The payment is also available for people who hold a visa that provides the right to work in Australia.

If you’re eligible you will receive $750 for each 7-day period you’ve been told to self-isolate or quarantine, or are caring for someone who has COVID-19. You must make a new claim for each 7-day period.  For example, if you are required to isolate for 10 days, you will need to submit two claims, for two payments of $750 each, through Services Australia, to cover the 10-day period.

 

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is taxable income. This means you’ll need to include it in your Income Tax Return.

If you’re a member of a couple, you can both claim this payment. You and your partner will need to complete separate claims.

For more details and to make a claim see Services Australia – Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.

State and territory COVID-19 test and isolate payments

Some States and Territories are also providing a one-off payment for eligible residents who need to quarantine and cannot work while awaiting a COVID-19 test result.  These include:

However, you may not be eligible to receive the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment if, during your isolation period, you got or will get a COVID-19 test / isolation payment from your State or Territory government.  You need to decide which payment is best for you before applying.

For more information on assistance available see State and Territory Government Assistance below.

Centrelink Crisis Payments

There are different types of Crisis Payments for different circumstances.

To get a Crisis Payment you need to meet eligibility criteria for the type of Crisis Payment you claim AND you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Be in severe financial hardship.
  • Get, or, be eligible for an income support payment or ABSTUDY Living Allowance.
  • Be experiencing one of the following extreme circumstances:
    • COVID-19 – you or someone you’re caring for are required to quarantine or self-isolate
    • Family and Domestic Violence – you’ve experienced an incident of family and domestic violence
    • Disaster – you’ve had to leave your home because of a natural or other disaster not covered by a disaster relief payment
    • Humanitarian – you’ve arrived in Australia as a humanitarian entrant for the first time
    • Confinement – you were released from prison or psychiatric confinement.

For those people who are eligible for the COVID-19 crisis payment, you must contact Centrelink within 14 days of entering required quarantine or self-isolation or caring for someone who is.

You can receive a maximum of two COVID-19 Crisis Payments in a 6-month period.  This is equal to a week’s pay at the maximum basic rate of your income support payment or ABSTUDY Living Allowance.

For more details see Services Australia – Crisis Payment.

Centrelink Advance payment – Although not a crisis payment, if you already receive a Centrelink payment and need to access additional funds, you may qualify for an advance payment. You will need to pay this back over time out of future payments from Centrelink.

Mutual obligation requirements

Mutual obligation requirements are tasks and activities you agree to while getting certain payments from Services Australia.

This means that if you’re a job seeker you must:

  • do all the tasks and activities listed in your Job Plan
  • go to appointments with your employment services provider
  • complete and report your job searches
  • accept any offer of suitable paid work.

Special Circumstances Exemptions continue to be available to job seekers who require them.  Examples include if you’re sick, or injured, or experiencing a crisis such as domestic violence or homelessness.  You will need to provide Centrelink with proof of your circumstances for your exemption to be assessed.

If you’re impacted by COVID-19, Centrelink may grant you an exemption for up to 14 days without evidence if you’re either:

  • self-isolating; or
  • caring for someone who needs to self-isolate.

Go to Services Australia: Mutual Obligation Requirements for more details.

Economic Support payment

There were two separate economic support payments of $750 paid to eligible Centrelink recipients in April and July 2020.

There were two further economic support payments of $250 paid to eligible Centrelink recipients in December 2020 and March 2021.

If you claim Family Tax Benefit for 2020-21 as a lump sum, you’ll get the payments you are eligible for with your lump sum. This could include the $750 payment Centrelink paid in July 2020, and the two $250 payments. This will be after you’ve claimed and confirmed your income for the 2020-21 financial year.

Generally, you will not be eligible to get the Economic Support Payment if you were getting $1 or more of the Coronavirus Supplement.

The Economic Support payments are exempt from tax.

COVID-19 and Sole Traders

If you’re a sole trader or small business, and you’ve experienced a reduction in your income from recent COVID-19 lockdowns, travel restrictions or global supply chain disruptions, you may be eligible to receive financial support from your State or Territory Government.

Support packages vary from state to state and will depend on a number of factors including the restrictions in place, industry sector, and the level of lost income.

Find COVID-19 financial support for small business in your state or territory here.

State and Territory Government assistance

It is worth keeping up to date with financial assistance measures that may be available to support individuals, households and small businesses in your State or Territory. Click on the relevant link below to find out more.

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT Government is providing a range of additional financial assistance to individuals waiting for a COVID-19 test result, businesses, temporary visa holders, and residential tenants during COVID.

Details on all assistance available can be accessed by calling the ACT Government COVID-19 helpline on 02 6207 7244 or at ACT Government COVID-19 Support

New South Wales

The NSW Government is providing additional financial assistance and support to help individuals waiting for a COVID-19 test result, businesses, landlords and tenants who have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions and are experiencing financial difficulty.

Details on all assistance available can be accessed by calling Service NSW on 137 788 or at NSW Government COVID-19 Support Package

Northern Territory residents
Details on assistance available can be accessed by calling the NT COVID-19 hotline 1800 490 484 or at NT Government COVID-19 Wellbeing Support.

Queensland
The QLD Government is providing a range of financial assistance to individuals.  See QLD Government COVID-19 Support for more information

South Australia
Details of assistance available can be accessed by calling the SA COVID-19 Information line on 1800 253 787 or at SA Government COVID-19 Support.

Tasmania
Details of assistance available can be accessed by calling the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 or at Tasmanian Government COVID-19 Financial Services and Support.
There is more information here for temporary visa holders, including about Pandemic Isolation Assistance Grants and other emergency relief and assistance.

Victoria
The Victorian Government is providing additional financial assistance and support to help individuals waiting for a COVID-19 test result, businesses, landlords and tenants who have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions and are experiencing financial difficulty.

Details on all assistance available can be accessed at Service Victoria COVID-19.

Western Australia
The WA government offers a wide range of rebates, concessions and financial assistance to individuals to help meet the cost of certain household bills and other essential services.   See WA Government – ConcessionsWA for more information.

Speak to one of our financial counsellors

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help in dealing with your financial stress, please contact one of our financial counsellors.

Financial counsellors aren’t judgmental about your circumstances – they’re here to offer you free, confidential and independent support and advice.

To speak to a financial counsellor you can:

  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 – open Weekdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. Live chat is available 9:30am-4:30pm weekdays. If you send a message outside these hours a financial counsellor will get back to you.
  • Make an appointment to see a financial counsellor in your local area. Find a local financial counsellor on this map.