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. Two extra payments of $750 for eligible people on Centrelink payments (economic support payments)
  2. Additional income (the coronavirus supplement) for eligible people on Centrelink payments (for example, JobSeeker)
  3. JobSeeker extended to December 2020, but at a reduced rate from September 2020
  4. JobKeeper extended until 28 March 2021, but at a reduced rate from September 2020
  5. State and Territory Governments have committed extra funds to assist with a range of other costs (examples include rental relief, assistance with utilities and cash grants)

What do the changes mean?

In April 2020, in response to the pandemic, the Government increased the amount paid to people receiving various Centrelink payments, for example, JobSeeker. This is called the coronavirus supplement. From September 25, 2020 the fortnightly coronavirus supplement of $550 will drop to $250 a fortnight.

The income free area for JobSeeker will increase to $300 per fortnight, which means people can earn more, but still receive the maximum payment rates. If you earn more than $300 per fortnight, your payment will be reduced by 60c for each dollar over this amount.

In addition, the partner income test for JobSeeker (how much a person’s partner can earn before it affects eligibility) will be $3068.80 per fortnight (or $79,762.80 per annum), as long as the recipient has a personal income of less than $104 per fortnight.

If you have been impacted by the pandemic then you should consider applying for any and all of the assistance payments (if you are eligible).

Remember: It is important that you consider applying for financial help as this will assist you and the economic recovery.

Applying for Centrelink

Note: Centrelink procedures and eligibility do change. Check Services Australia for information.

If your income has decreased below a certain amount or you are now unemployed, you can apply for income support through Centrelink. You can find more information about applying for income support on the Services Australia website. You can submit a claim for income support by linking your Centrelink online account to your MyGov account.

Tips when applying for Centrelink:

  • You need to lodge a claim online.
  • If this is your first time claiming Centrelink you can lodge an intent to claim online. You can also call Centrelink to get:
    • a linking code to link Centrelink to MyGov and
    • a Centrelink Customer Reference Number and
    • provide identification online
  • You do not need an employment separation certificate or your bank account statements.
  • The application process online through MyGov can be difficult. Be patient, read the questions carefully and if you need to, ask a person you can trust for support. If you need more support contact Centrelink or visit a Centrelink office.

Eligibility changes

From 27 April 2020 until 24 September 2020, the following eligibility requirements WILL NOT be required for anyone eligible to receive the Coronavirus Supplement:

  • the Assets Test
  • the Liquid Assets Waiting Period
  • the Ordinary Waiting Period (already waived until 12 June 2020)
  • the Liquid Assets Waiting Period
  • the Seasonal Workers Preclusion Period
  • the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period
  • Mutual obligation or participation requirements (from 24 March until 8 June 2020)

In addition, the partner income test for JobSeeker (how much your partner can earn before it affects eligibility) will be $3068.80 per fortnight (or $79,762.80 per annum), as long as you have personal income of less than $104 per fortnight.

From 25 September 2020 access to payments will change as follows:

  • the Assets Test will be reinstated for both existing and new recipients
  • the Liquid Assets Test Waiting Period will be reinstated
  • the Ordinary Waiting Period, Seasonal Work Preclusion Period and the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period will continue to be waived until 31 December 2020
  • Partner Income test will increase to $3,086.11 per fortnight. Or $80,238.89 per annum, if you have no personal income.

Mutual obligation

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

Mutual obligations were suspended in March due to Covid-19. They will be gradually reintroduced from 4thAugust 2020.

These requirements don’t apply to people in Victoria until further notice. Job seekers in Victoria should continue to meet the limited requirements introduced on 9 June.

Go to Services Australia for details.

Coronavirus supplement

The Government has increased financial support for a range of people receiving income support as a response to COVID-19. This is called the coronavirus supplement and is an additional payment for people receiving:

  • JobSeeker Payment (previously called Newstart Allowance)
  • Partner Allowance
  • Widow Allowance
  • Sickness Allowance
  • Youth Allowance
  • Austudy
  • ABSTUDY Living Allowance
  • Parenting Payment
  • Farm Household Allowance
  • Special benefit

The supplement is $550 per fortnight until 24 September 2020. After that, until the end of December 2020, the payment reduces to $250 per fortnight.

Economic Support payment

There will be two separate $750 payments:

The first payment was made to people who were eligible from 12 March 2020 to 13 April 2020 and has been paid.

The second payment is available to people who are eligible on 10 July 2020 and will be paid from 13 July 2020.

The payments are made automatically. The payment is exempt from tax and will not count as income for Centrelink purposes. Eligible people can only receive one payment per round.

To be eligible for the first payment a person needed to be a concession card holder or receiving a social security payment or veteran’s payment. The full list is here.

The eligibility list for the second payment is the same as for the first payment, except that people receiving the coronavirus supplement are not eligible.

JobKeeper

The employer applies for JobKeeper. Both the employer and the employee must be eligible. The subsidy began on 30 March 2020 and will finish on 28 March 2021.

When first introduced the payment was $1500 per fortnight before tax for everyone who was eligible, regardless of how many hours a person worked.

  • From 28th September 2020, the payment reduces to $1,200 per fortnight. For people who worked for less than 20 hours per week, the payment will be $750 per fortnight.
  • From 4th January 2021, the payment reduces to $1,000 per fortnight. For people who worked for less than 20 hours per week, the payment will be $650 per fortnight.

An employer can enroll for  JobKeeper at any time until the program closes if their circumstances have changed.

State and Territory Government assistance

Check your State or Territory Government information below to see if you are eligible for further assistance.

Australian Capital Territory +
ACT Government – COVID-19 economic survival package

New South Wales +
NSW Government – COVID-19

Northern Territory residents +
Northern Territory Government support

Queensland +
Queensland Government – COVID-19 economic relief package

South Australia +
South Australian Government – COVID-19

Tasmania +
Tasmanian Government – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Victoria +
Department of Health and Human Services Victoria – COVID-19

Western Australia +
WA Government – Coronavirus COVID-19

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