COVID-19: Income assistance for individuals and households

Key points

  • If you are currently employed, have been “stood down” or you can be re-hired, ask your employer to register for the new JobKeeper Payment. This payment is $1,500 per fortnight – more than JobSeeker and the Coronavirus supplement
  • If you have already registered for the JobSeeker Payment, ask your employer to register for JobKeeper as well. CentreLink and the ATO will figure out which payment to give you
  • If you can’t get the JobKeeper Payment and you have lost your job or your income has been significantly reduced by COVID-19 you may be eligible for the Jobseeker Payment (which is between $565.70 and $790.10 a fortnight)
  • If you are eligible for the JobSeeker Payment you will also receive the new Coronavirus Supplement of $550 a fortnight
  • To get the JobKeeker Payment your employer must register with the ATO
  • If you don’t currently receive Government benefits, to get the JobSeeker Payment you will need to register with myGov and Centrelink – preferably online and by phone but you have time to do this because the new payments wont start until 27 April 2020 and they will be back dated
  • If you already receive government benefits you may qualify for one or two additional payments of $750 each and the new Coronavirus Supplement of $550 a fortnight. If you are already eligible you will receive these automatically
  • You may also qualify for Rent Assistance
  • The Government has made it much easier to qualify for these benefits

JobKeeper or JobSeeker?

This is probably the most important question for people who have lost their job, been stood down or have had their work hours significantly reduced due to COVID-19.

For most people who are currently employed, have been “stood down” (that is still employed but not actively working), are sole traders or self employed the best option is probably to have their employer register for JobKeeper Payments. The JobKeeper payment ($1,500 a fortnight) is more than the JobSeeker Payment (between $565.70 and $790.10 a fortnight) plus the Coronavirus Supplement ($550 a fortnight).

The JobKeeper Payment

The JobKeeper Payment is a payment of $1,500 a fortnight, paid by the ATO to an employer and then paid by the employer to eligible employees. Employers can choose to “top-up” and/or pay superannuation on the Job Seeker Payment. It is designed to keep as many people employed as possible during the COVID-19 economic downturn. Both the employer and the employee must be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment.

For a business to be eligible for JobKeeper Payments:

  • if turnover is less than $1 billion it must have fallen by more than 30 percent for at least a month
  • if turnover is $1 billion or more it must have fallen by more than 50 percent for at least a month
  • the business must not be subject to the Major Bank Levy

For an employee to be eligible for JobKeeper Payments they must:

  • be currently employed (including “stood down” or re-hired)
  • have been employed by the employer at 1 March 2020
  • be full-time, part-time or long-term casuals (employed on a regular basis for longer than 12 months at 1 March 2020)
  • be at least 16 years of age
  • be an Australian citizen, hold a permanent visa or one of several other types of eligible visas
  • not receiving a JobKeeper Payment from another employer

The first JobKeeper Payments will made in May but will be back dated to 30 March 2020.

Employers should register their intent to claim JobKeeper Payments with ATO at this website.

Further information on JobKeeper Payments is available here.

JobSeeker Payment

If you can’t get your employer to register for the JobKeeper Payment or you aren’t eligible for it you should register for the JobSeeker Payment. This is an existing government benefit paid by CentreLink to eligible individuals. The payment is between $565.70 and $790.10 a fortnight depending on your circumstances.

If you already receive the JobSeeker Payment you will continue to receive it and you will automatically be paid the Coronavirus Supplement. You may also qualify for one or two of the additional payments described below.

If you aren’t already receiving the JobSeeker Payment the good news is more people will now qualify for it including permanent employees, sole traders, self-employed, casual workers, and contractors who have been stood down, have lost their employment or who have their hours reduced (including to zero) who meet the income tests and normal wait periods have been removed.

The normal Asset testing for the Jobseeker Payment will be waived during the period of the Coronavirus supplement. Income testing will still apply but these have been modified. Details about the income tests are available here.

The one week Ordinary Waiting Period, Liquid Assets test Waiting Period (which usually means you need to use your savings before you can claim the benefit), Seasonal Worker Preclusion Period and Newly Arrived residents Waiting Period have all been waived.

You won’t be able to get the JobSeeker Payment while you are receiving employee entitlements such as annual leave or sick leave or income protection benefits.

The Coronavirus Supplement

For the next 6 months the JobSeeker Payment and a number of other Government benefits are being topped-up with the Coronavirus Supplement which is $550 a fortnight.

Eligible recipients of the new Coronavirus Supplement are people receiving:

  • Jobseeker Payment (and Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance, Sickness Allowance, and Wife Pension)
  • Youth Allowance Jobseeker and Apprentices
  • Parenting Payment (Partnered and Single)
  • Farm Household Allowance
  • Special Benefit recipients

Coronavirus Supplement payments will be made from 27 April 2020 but they will be backdated.

Additional Support Payments

The Government is also making two additional support payments of $750 each to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession cardholders.

The two support payments will be paid automatically from 31 March 2020 and 13 July 2020. Eligible recipients of the two support payments include recipients of a wide range of existing benefits including Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Austudy, Abstudy, Newstart Allowance, jobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance, Partner Allowance, Sickness Benefit, Special Benefit, Family Tax Benefit, Veteran Service Pension, Veteran Income Support Supplement, Veteran Compensation payments, War Widow and Widower pensions, Veteran Payment, Farm Household Allowance and holders of Pensioner Concession Cards, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders, Veteran Gold Card

If you are already receiving any of these benefits you don’t need to do anything. You can concentrate on staying healthy and other important things and your additional payment should start automatically.

How you claim the benefits

If you are eligible for the JobKeeper Payment your employer must register. You should talk to your employer.

If you are already receiving Jobseeker Payment (and Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance, Sickness Allowance, and Wife Pension), Youth Allowance Jobseeker and Apprentices, Parenting Payment (Partnered and Single), Farm Household Allowance or Special Benefit recipients you don’t need to anything. You will automatically start getting the Coronavirus supplement starting on 27 April 2020.

If you are eligible for the JobSeeker Payment because of COVID-19 you will need to apply.

Given the massive load on the myGov website and the long queues outside Centrelink offices, people are being encouraged to wait before trying to register (though things should improve quite quickly as capacity is added to the web site).

People are also being strongly encouraged to register online if they can – you should avoid spending long periods of time waiting at Centrelink offices with lots of other people

To register for the benefits you need to:

  • Register on the myGov web site if you haven’t already done it. Do it here
  • Complete the identity checking process by telephone (again, avoid going to Centrelink in person if you can)
  • After you set up a myGov account or if you already have one you need to set up a Centrelink online account (which you do from the myGov website)
  • After setting up a Centrelink online account you can apply for the benefits listed above
  • You will need to make complete a declaration (online) confirming the information you have provided, including that you have been made redundant or had your work hours reduced. Self-employed or Sole Traders will need to confirm that their business has been suspended or turnover has reduced significantly

There is now also an option on the Centrelink website to indicate your intent to claim these benefits. If you select this option Centrelink will contact you – which might be a better option if you experience issues with the myGov website.

Job seeking arrangements

Usually people receiving the Jobseeker Payment have an obligation to look for work or build their skills while they are receiving the payment but these obligations have been suspended until at least the 27 April 2020. So people receiving the the Jobseeker Payment will be able to practice social distancing and act as carers for others.

Rent Assistance

Rent Assistance may be available if you qualify for another benefit and you pay rent. The actual amount paid depends on how much rent you pay over the minimum threshold (which currently starts at $124.60 for singles and is higher for couples and families with dependent children). If you are eligible you will receive $0.75 or every $1.00 of rent over the minimum up to the maximum amount of the benefit which is $93.07 a fortnight for single sharers and higher for couples and families with dependent children.

Stay up to date

As the pandemic develops these arrangements are subject to change. We will do our best to keep this page up to date so we suggest you check back regularly. You can also stay up to date on government websites. The key sites are:

Federal Government Income Support for Individuals

Federal Government Household Support Payments

Federal Government Rent Assistance

If you are concerned about the financial impact of COVID-19 or you are facing the uncertainty of losing your job or having your income significantly reduced we can help. Sign up to MoneyBrilliant and we will give you access to a host of tools and features to help you organise your finances and make better decisions about your money. We’ll also give you tailored insights about the financial assistance available from governments and businesses to help you face the economic and financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This summary has been prepared by MoneyBrilliant Pty Ltd (AFSL 492711, ACL 493068). The information in this summary is of a factual nature only. We are not suggesting or recommending that you take any particular course of action in relation to any financial product or service. It does not take into account your personal circumstances or objectives. If you need financial advice or taxation advice you should seek advice from a licensed financial adviser or tax agent. You may also be able to access additional information from the websites of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and the relevant product providers.

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