COVID -19 changes: Government Assistance

Parliament House, Canberra

This page is about steps you can take to look after yourself and your family financially during the COVID-19 pandemic

Information on this page:
Please click the links below to visit each section

Five changes you need to know about

  1. For people who DO NOT receive any Centrelink payments – The Commonwealth Government has introduced various payments for people affected by COVID. There is a COVID-19 Disaster Payment to help people who have lost income due to a COVID-19 lockdown, hotspot declaration or period of restricted movements. There is also a Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for people who have to isolate or quarantine.
  2. For people who DO receive a Centrelink income support payment – there is the COVID-19 Disaster Payment ‘supplement’ for people who have lost at least 8 hours of work and income due to a COVID-19 lockdown, hotspot declaration or period of restricted movements.
  3. State and Territory Governments have committed extra funds to assist with financial support to individuals and households and, in some cases, small businesses impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
  4. If you are a sole trader in NSW, Victoria, ACT, QLD or SA and you’ve been impacted by the recent COVID-19 restrictions, you may be eligible to receive financial assistance from your State or Territory government.
  5. “Mutual Obligations” for Centrelink payments may be suspended from time to time due to a COVID-19 lockdown or disaster.

What do the changes mean?

Whether or not you are already receiving an income support payment from Centrelink, if you have lost income due to a COVID-19 lockdown, hotspot declaration or period of restricted movement, check if you are eligible to receive a payment from the Commonwealth Government and/or your State or Territory government.

You should apply for all of the 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

If you don’t get a Centrelink payment

On 4 June 2021 the Australian Government introduced a new COVID-19 Disaster Payment to help people who have lost income due to a COVID-19 lockdown, hotspot declaration or period of restricted movement that lasts longer than 7 days.  The Australian Government also announced that from 12 July 2021, the $10,000 liquid assets rule will be waived for this payment.

How much you receive depends on where you live, the period of the lockdown / restricted movement order and how many hours of work per week you lost because of this.

From 5 August 2021, a new payment rate will apply to all future lockdowns lasting at least a week. For eligible people you will receive either:

  • $750 per week of lockdown if you lose 20 hours or more of work; or
  • $450 per week of lockdown if you lose between 8 – 20 hours of work or a full day of your usual work hours per week.

You can get this payment even if you are eligible on only one day during the payment period.

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

To qualify, you will need to have exhausted any paid leave entitlements (other than annual leave) or other special pandemic leave.

This payment is tax free and you don’t need to include it in your tax return.

People who are already receiving a Centrelink income support payment or the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment or a state government business support payment, will not be eligible for this payment.

If you already get a Centrelink Payment

On 29 July 2021, the Government announced the COVID-19 Disaster Payment ‘supplement’, for eligible people who already get a Centrelink income support payment.

If you were unable to work and earn your usual income of 8 hours or more or a full day’s work because you were in a COVID-19 hotspot and subject to restricted movement then you may be eligible to receive this payment.

The payment is $200 each week.

It is not paid automatically.  You will need to apply and meet all the eligibility rules to receive this payment on top of your regular Centrelink payment.

Check if you can get the payment if you’re in any of these areas:

  • Australian Capital Territory
  • New South Wales
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Victoria

You can get this payment even if you are eligible on only one day during the payment period.

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

To qualify, you will need to have exhausted any paid leave entitlements (other than annual leave) or other special pandemic leave.

The payment is tax free income.  You don’t need to include it in your tax return or report it as income to Centrelink.

IMPORTANT:  This payment is for people who are already receiving a Centrelink income support payment.  If you are receiving the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment then you will not be eligible for this supplement payment.

How to claim

You can claim either payment using your Centrelink online account through myGov. If you are new to Centrelink don’t have a myGov account or a Centrelink online account, you will need to set them up before applying.

If you hold a visa that gives you the right to work in Australia, you’ll need to call Centrelink on 180 22 66 to claim the COVID-19 Disaster Payment.

For more details on eligibility and to make a claim see Services Australia – COVID-19 Disaster Payment.  To speak to someone call Services Australia on 180 22 66.

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is a lump sum payment of up to $1,500 to help you during the 14 days you need to self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone.

You may be eligible for this payment if you have been directed to self-isolate or quarantine by your State or Territory Government.  You may also be eligible if 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 or hold an eligible working visa.

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.

COVID-19 and Sole Traders

NSW

If you are a sole trader in NSW, do not employ any staff, and you’ve been impacted by the recent COVID-19 restrictions, you may be eligible to receive financial support from the NSW Government.  Support available includes:

  • NSW COVID-19 Micro Business Grant payment of $1,500 per fortnight
  • NSW COVID-19 JobSaver payment of $1,000 per week
  • NSW COVID-19 business grant one-off payment between $7,500 and $15,000

You cannot get both the COVID-19 Micro Business Grant and the COVID-19 JobSaver Payment.  Also, You cannot get the Australian Government COVID-19 Disaster Payment and any of the above NSW Government payments at the same time.  You will need to decide which payment is best for you.

Generally, the support you will be eligible for will be based on:

  • whether your business turnover is under or over $75,000
  • the documentation you can provide to support your claim
  • whether you are a sole trader or non-employing business who is already receiving the Australian Government’s COVID-19 Disaster Payment.

For more details on eligibility and to apply see NSW Government COVID-19 help for businesses.

VIC

If you are a sole trader in Victoria, do not employ any staff, and you’ve been impacted by the recent COVID-19 restrictions, you may be eligible to apply for the Victorian Government’s Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two July Extension (BCAP2e).

The BCAP2e program offers grants of $4,800 to eligible businesses, including sole traders or non-employing businesses, depending on their industry sector. Applications close 13 August 2021. For more information see Business Victoria – Grants & programs.

New support programs to help Victorian small businesses recover from the recent lockdowns have also been announced. For more information see Extra support for Victorian businesses announcement.

ACT

The ACT Government has recently announced new support programs to help small businesses in the ACT facing a significant loss of revenue due to the current lockdown.

This support includes a $1,000 one-off grant to eligible non-employing sole traders.

For more information see COVID-19 economic support for business ACT.

QLD

On 13 August 2021, the joint Queensland and Australian Government support package for Queensland businesses affected by the recent COVID-19 lockdowns was announced.

The support includes a $1,000 one-off grant to eligible non-employing sole traders.

For more information see 2021 COVID-19 Business Support Grants QLD.

SA

The COVID-19 Additional Business Support Grant has been introduced for industry sectors that are significantly impacted by COVID-19 trading restrictions applicable from 28 July 2021.

A grant of $1,000 is available for eligible non-employing sole traders that have experienced a decline in turnover of 30% or more as a result of the COVID-19 health trading restrictions introduced from 28 July 2021.

A further grant of $1,000 will be available for eligible businesses (both employing and non-employing) with a commercial premise in the Adelaide CBD.

For more information see Growing SA – Support for businesses, jobs and the community impacted by COVID-19.

Centrelink Emergency Payments

There are two possible emergency payments you may be able to get from Centrelink:

  1. Crisis payment – you may apply for a one-off special crisis payment if you are receiving an income support payment, have experienced extreme circumstance and are in severe financial hardship.  There are five types of crisis payment:  for family and domestic violence; for humanitarian entrants; for release from prison or psychiatric confinement; for other extreme circumstances; and more recently for a national health emergency (eg COVID-19). For those 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. For more details see National Health Emergency (COVID-19).
  2. Advance payment – if you already receive a Centrelink payment 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.

Centrelink will temporarily suspend mutual obligation requirements from time to time due to COVID-19 lockdowns and restricted movement orders.  During this period, no payment suspensions or financial penalties will apply if you don’t meet your mutual obligation requirements.

You should check when your mutual obligation requirements start again after any temporary pause ends.

Special Circumstances Exemptions continue to be available to job seekers who require them.  For example, 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.

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
COVID-19 Test Hardship Isolation Payment:  ACT workers can apply for a $270 COVID-19 Hardship Isolation Payment if they need to self-isolate and are unable to work while waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test.  More information about eligibility and how to apply is here.

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
COVID-19 Test and Isolate support payment:  NSW workers can apply for a $320 COVID-19 Test and Isolate support payment if they need to self-isolate and are unable to work while waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test.  More information about eligibility and how to apply is here.

Details on all assistance available can be accessed by calling Service NSW on 137 788 or at NSW Government COVID-19 2021 Support

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
Details of assistance available can be accessed at QLD Government COVID-19 Support

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
$450 COVID-19 Test Isolation Payment:  Victorian workers can apply for a $450 COVID-19 Test Isolation Payment if they need to self-isolate and are unable to work while waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test.  More information about eligibility and how to apply here.

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

Western Australia
Details of assistance available can be accessed at WA Government COVID-19.

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.
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