COVID-19: Income assistance for individuals – updated

Updated: 4 August 2020

Key points

  • JobKeeper is currently a flat $1,500 per fortnight. From 28 September it will be reduced and split into payments of $1,200 and $750 per fortnight for full time and part time employees and $1,000 and $650 per fortnight from 4 January. Employers will have to demonstrate 30% reduction in turnover in the June and September quarters for payments in the December quarter and a 30% reduction in turnover in the December quarter for payments in the March 2021 quarter
  • The Coronavirus Supplement that is currently $550 a fortnight and is paid to JobSeeker recipients as well as recipients of a number of other government benefits will reduce to $250 per fortnight from 25 September to 31 December. Asset testing and job seeking requirements will also be reintroduced
  • Eligible Victorian residents can access a Coronavirus Test Isolation Payment ($300) and a Coronavirus Worker Support Payment ($1500) to help them deal with the impact of not working during isolation and quarantine periods if they have no other source of income or relevant leave entitlements

What JobKeeper is, how it works and how it will change

  • 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
  • Until 27 September the JobKeeper payment will $1,500 per fortnight (which is more than JobSeeker plus the Coronavirus supplement)
  • From 28 September to 3 January 2021 the JobKeeper payment will be reduced and it will be tiered – $1,200 per fortnight if you wok more than 20 hours per week and $750 per fortnight if you work less than 20 hours per week
  • From 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021 the JobKeeper payment will remain tiered but will reduce again – $1,000 per fortnight if you work more than 20 hours per week and $650 per fortnight if you work less than 20 hours per week
  • To get the JobKeeker Payment your employer must register with the ATO and your employer will need to qualify
  • 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

What JobSeeker is, how it works and how it will change

  • 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
  • The JobSeeker payment is between $565.70 and $790.10 a fortnight depending on your circumstances
  • You will also receive the Coronavirus Supplement (see below)
  • Until 25 September recipients of JobSeeker can earn up to $106 per fortnight and recipients of Youth Allowance can earn up to $143 per fortnight without reducing their benefit. After 25 September this will be increased to $300 per fortnight. If you earn more than $300 per fortnight your benefit will reduce 60 cents for each dollar over this amount
  • 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

What about recipients of other government benefits?

  • If you already receive government benefits you may qualify for one or two additional payments of $750 each (Economic Support Payments) and the Coronavirus Supplement (see below). The first of the Economic Support Payments will be made in during April 2020. The second payment will be made during July 2020
  • If you are already eligible you will receive these automatically
  • You may also qualify for Rent Assistance

The Coronavirus Supplement

The Coronavirus Supplement is a “top-up” payment made to the recipients of a number of government benefits including:

  • 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

Until 24 September the Coronavirus Supplement will be $550 per fortnight. From 25 September until 31 December it will be reduced to $250 per fortnight. It is likely that the Coronavirus Supplement will be extended until 31 March 2021 but this is not yet certain.

Coronavirus Test Isolation and Worker Support Payments for Victorian Residents

Eligible residents of Victoria can access the $300 Coronavirus Test Isolation Payment designed to cover lost income during isolation following a COVD-19 test and the $1500 Worker Support Payment designed to cover lost income during isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. Further information is available in this article.

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 is more than the JobSeeker Payment plus the Coronavirus Supplement.

Eligibility for the JobKeeper Payment

Both the employer and the employee must be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment.

Initially, a business was 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
  • 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

Under the most recent announcements, businesses will have to demonstrate turnover has declined by 30% (or 50% in the case of businesses with turnover of $1 billion or more)  in the June and September quarters to qualify for JobKeeper payments in the December quarter and demonstrate a 30% (or 50% in the case of businesses with turnover of $1 billion or more) reduction in turnover in the December quarter to be eligible for JobKeeper payments in the March 2021 quarter.

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

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

Further information on JobKeeper Payments is available here.

Eligibility for the 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.

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.

Until 25 September more people will qualify for JobSeeker 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. Normal wait periods have been removed.  The normal Asset testing has been waived. 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 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.

After 25 September asset testing and the Liquid Assets Waiting Period will be reintroduced. Details of the asset tests are available here. Partner income testing will also be changed. Your JobSeeker payment will be reduced by 27 cents (instead of 25 cents) for every dollar your partner earns over $1165 per fortnight.

The Ordinary Waiting Period, Seasonal Worker Preclusion Period and Newly Arrived residents Waiting Period will all continue to be 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.

Job seeking arrangements

Until 3 August JobSeeker recipients are not required to actively look for work. From the 4 August JobSeeker recipients will be required to apply for at least 4 jobs per month and will incur penalties for refusing work.

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.

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 www.my.gov.au
  • 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.

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.

Staying 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 Individual and Household Support

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.

You can register for MoneyBrilliant online at www.moneybrilliant.com.au or download our app from the App Store or the Play Store.

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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