Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and support

The department is supporting individuals and families affected by coronavirus through a range of measures.

On this page:

Whole of Government response to COVID-19

The Australian Government is delivering a range of measures to address the global health crisis related to coronavirus. Please visit Australia.gov.au for information on the economic response to COVID-19, including details of the JobKeeper payment scheme and an overview of the Government's targeted economic response packages.

For general health information and advice on COVID-19, please visit the Department of Health's webpage.

Extension of income support

On 10 November 2020, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Families and Social Services announced changes to the Government’s social safety net for people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. These changes include:

Coronavirus Supplement

On 10 November 2020, the Government announced that the Coronavirus Supplement will be extended until 31 March 2021. Subject to the passage of legislation, from 1 January 2021 to 31 March 2021, the Coronavirus Supplement will be paid at a rate of $150 per fortnight.

The Coronavirus Supplement is being paid at a rate of $250 per fortnight from 25 September 2020 to 31 December 2020.

The Coronavirus Supplement was paid to eligible income support recipients at a rate of $550 per fortnight from 27 April 2020 until 24 September 2020.

Since 27 April 2020, recipients of the following payments have also received the Coronavirus Supplement:

  • JobSeeker Payment
  • Youth Allowance
  • ABSTUDY (Living Allowance)
  • Austudy
  • Parenting Payment
  • Partner Allowance
  • Widow Allowance
  • Farm Household Allowance
  • Special Benefit.

Adjusted income free area and taper rate

The Government has introduced temporary changes to the JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other) income tests to improve incentives for individuals to re-enter the workforce or take on additional work as the economy recovers. Since 25 September 2020, the income free area for JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other) has been increased to $300.

Under the previous income test rules, JobSeeker Payment recipients could earn up to $106 per fortnight before their payment was affected. For each dollar of income that they earned between $106 and $256 per fortnight, their JobSeeker Payment was reduced by 50 cents, while each dollar they earned above $256 per fortnight, reduced their payment by 60 cents.

Youth Allowance (other) recipients could previously earn up to $143 per fortnight before their payment was affected. For each dollar of income that they earned between $143 and $250 per fortnight, their Youth Allowance (other) was reduced by 50 cents, while each dollar they earned above $250 per fortnight, reduced their payment by 60 cents.

From 25 September 2020 to 31 March 2021, recipients of both JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other) are able to earn up to $300 per fortnight before their payment is affected. This means that recipients of these payments can now earn more before their rate of JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance (other) is reduced. For each dollar they earn above $300 per fortnight, their payment is reduced by 60 cents

As long as a person receives any amount of JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance (other), they will receive the full amount of the Coronavirus Supplement.

Reduction in the partner income test taper rate

The JobSeeker Payment partner income test taper rate of 27 cents, which was introduced from 25 September 2020, will continue until 31 March 2021. This allows more couples to access payment where one member of the couple loses their job and goes onto JobSeeker Payment, and the working partner is on a more modest income.

The partner income test taper rate was temporarily reduced from 60 cents to 25 cents on 27 April 2020, as part of the initial response to the coronavirus outbreak. It increased to 27 cents on 25 September 2020.

What is the change?

  • Under income testing arrangements, the income a person's partner earns is taken into account when determining their rate of payment. Before 27 April 2020, every dollar of partner income over the partner income free area of $996 per fortnight, reduced the person's rate of JobSeeker Payment by 60 cents.
  • Under the JobSeeker Payment partner income test arrangements introduced on 27 April 2020, the taper rate for partner income above the partner income free area of $1,165 per fortnight changed from 60c to 25c. Under this arrangement, the partner income cut-out for JobSeeker Payment was $3,070.80 per fortnight. This arrangement ended on 24 September 2020.
  • From 25 September 2020 to 31 March 2021, the JobSeeker Payment partner income test taper rate has increased from 25c to 27c for every dollar of partner income over the partner income free area of $1,165 per fortnight. This allows a person with no income to receive the JobSeeker Payment and Coronavirus Supplement provided their partner earns less than $3086.11 per fortnight.

New and existing JobSeeker Payment recipients whose payment rate is adjusted because of partner income have benefited from this change

Expanding eligibility and qualification for payments

Since 25 March 2020, eligibility for JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance for jobseekers has been temporarily expanded to include:

  • sole traders and self-employed people. They will be able to meet mutual obligation requirements by continuing to operate their businesses.
  • people in quarantine or self-isolation as a result of advice from a health professional or a requirement by a government (Commonwealth, state or territory).
  • permanent employees who have been stood down or lost their job.
  • people caring for someone infected or in isolation as a result of contact with Coronavirus.

From 25 March 2020 to 24 September 2020, some eligibility criteria were temporarily waived for certain payments, including the assets test, the Ordinary Waiting Period, the Liquid Assets Waiting Period, the Seasonal Workers Preclusion Period and the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period. Access to payments was also made easier with a temporary removal of the requirement for an Employment Separation Certificate and verification of relationship status.

Since 25 September 2020, access to payments has changed to ensure appropriate targeting of income support as the economy recovers.

Asset testing and the liquid assets waiting period have been reintroduced for all payments from 25 September 2020. This means that people who have assets above a certain amount are no longer eligible to claim or receive an income support payment, while new income support payment claimants may have to serve a waiting period, depending on the amount of liquid assets to which they have access.

The temporary removal of the requirement for an Employment Separation certificate and relationship verification status will continue until 31 December 2020.

The Ordinary Waiting Period, Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period and the Seasonal Work Preclusion Period will continue to be waived until 31 March 2021.

Gradual return of mutual obligation requirements

Mutual obligations were suspended for job seekers as a result of COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020 but have been gradually reintroduced as coronavirus restrictions have eased across Australia.

Mutual obligations are currently suspended for residents in Victoria, but they will be re-introduced from 23 November 2020. This will bring Victoria into line with the requirements that have applied in all other states and territories since 28 September 2020.

In addition to having their payment cancelled for refusing an offer of suitable employment without a valid reason, job seekers may also be subject to income support payment suspensions or penalties if mutual obligation requirements are not met and there is no valid reason.

These expanded mutual obligation requirements apply to all job seekers in jobactive, Online Employment Services, Disability Employment Services and participants in the ParentsNext program.

Elements of mutual obligation requirements for job seekers may include:

  • participating in appointments with their employment service provider,
  • agreeing to a Job Plan,
  • participating in agreed activities when it is safe to do so,
  • conducting eight job searches a month,
  • accepting an offer of suitable work.

For some job seekers, who have been on income support for 12 months, Work for the Dole activities have also recommenced where it is safe to do so and all health and safety requirements are met.

People who are receiving both JobSeeker Payment and JobKeeper Payment may also have mutual obligation requirements, depending on their circumstances. This is consistent with the arrangements for part-time workers who are also in receipt of JobSeeker Payment. Individuals who only receive JobKeeper Payment are not subject to mutual obligation requirements.

Additional flexibility has been introduced so that a job seeker who is studying an eligible course that is less than 12 months in duration, in either the vocational education and training or higher education systems, can have that study counted towards their mutual obligation requirements.

The Government strongly encourages job seekers to maintain contact with their employment services provider at this time to ensure they are aware of opportunities available for training, upskilling or employment.

Special circumstances exemptions will continue to be available from Services Australia for job seekers who require them. Sole traders and those who are self-employed will continue to be exempted from requirements to allow them to work to re-establish their business.

First Economic Support Payment

The first Economic Support Payment was paid from 31 March 2020 to people who, on a day in the period 12 March 2020 to 13 April 2020, were residing in Australia and were receiving a qualifying payment or held a qualifying concession card.

The following were qualifying payments and concession cards:

  • Age Pension
  • Disability Support Pension
  • Carer Payment
  • Parenting Payment
  • Wife Pension
  • Widow B Pension
  • ABSTUDY (Living Allowance)
  • Austudy
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • JobSeeker Payment (formerly Newstart Allowance)
  • Youth Allowance
  • Partner Allowance
  • Sickness Allowance
  • Special Benefit
  • Widow Allowance
  • Family Tax Benefit, including Double Orphan Pension
  • Carer Allowance
  • Pensioner Concession Card holders
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders
  • Veteran Service Pension; Veteran Income Support Supplement; Veteran Compensation payments, including lump sum payments; War Widow(er) Pension; and Veteran Payment
  • DVA PCC holders; DVA Education Scheme recipients; Disability Pensioners at the temporary special rate; DVA Income support pensioners at $0 rate
  • Veteran Gold Card holders
  • Farm Household Allowance.

Second Economic Support Payment

The second Economic Support Payment was paid from 13 July 2020 to people who, on 10 July 2020, were residing in Australia and were receiving a qualifying payment or held a qualifying concession card.

The qualifying payments and concessions cards for the second Economic Support Payment were the same as the First Economic Support, provided the person did not receive the Coronavirus Supplement.

Third and Fourth Economic Support Payments

The Australian Government has announced that around five million recipients will receive two additional Economic Support Payments of $250, subject to the passage of legislation. These payments follow the two Economic Support Payments of $750 provided in March and July 2020. The payments will assist households to meet additional costs in the lead up to Christmas and into the new year.

The categories of recipients and concession card holders eligible for the two additional $250 payments are:

  • Age Pension
  • Disability Support Payment
  • Carer Payment
  • Carer Allowance*
  • Family Tax Benefit* Parts A and B
  • Double Orphan Pension*
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
  • Pensioner Concession Card*
  • Certain Department of Veterans’ Affairs payments and cards.

*Not in receipt of a primary income support payment.

To receive the additional Economic Support Payments, a person must be residing in Australia and receiving an eligible payment or concession card on the relevant test dates. The test date for the third Economic Support Payment is 27 November 2020, with payments made from December 2020. The test date for the fourth Economic Support Payment is 26 February 2021, with payments made from March 2021.

As with the first two Economic Support Payments, people will only be able to receive one $250 payment in each round of payments, even if they qualify in multiple ways. Each member of a couple will receive the payments if both are on eligible payments or hold eligible concession cards. Recipients do not need to contact Services Australia or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to receive the payments.

Please visit the Services Australia website for more information on each individual payment.

Emergency assistance and support

Information on immediate emergency assistance or support available for those affected by coronavirus:

  • For national emergency relief services, including food, clothing, vouchers or help with bills, contact your local arm of The Salvation Army or St Vincent De Paul.
  • For local emergency relief providers search 'Financial Crisis and Material Aid – Emergency Relief' at serviceproviders.dss.gov.au. Please note provider details are updated regularly but may not be current at the time of your search.
  • For financial counselling, including advice on managing debt, contact the free and confidential National Debt Helpline by calling 1800 007 007. Alternatively, visit MoneySmart for advice to help you manage your money.
  • For those experiencing domestic violence, please contact 1800 RESPECT. Mensline Australia and the Men's Referral Service also offer support to people using violence. If anyone is in immediate danger, call 000
  • Lifeline offers personal crisis support services. Call 131 114 at any time. Kids Helpline is a free service for young people aged 5 to 25. Kids, teens and young adults can call 1800 551 800 at any time.
  • Those on a low income may be eligible to apply for a 'No Interest Loan'. For more information and details on how to apply, visit Good Shepherd Microfinance.
  • To test eligibility for income support payments including JobSeeker, contact Services Australia by visiting servicesaustralia.gov.au.
  • For more information on how the JobKeeper payment impacts Disability Support Pension (DSP) and Carer Payment (CP) recipients, please see COVID-19 Impact on DSP and CP and JobKeeper Recipients - Fact Sheet
  • For advice on how to seek medical help or to get tested for coronavirus, contact your state or territory health authority, or call the coronavirus helpline on 1800 020 080 at any time.
  • Latest news, advice and public health information is available at Australia.gov.au, or download on the 'Coronavirus Australia' app from the Apple and Google Play stores.
  • There are a number of Government funded crisis and support services to help people during the coronavirus pandemic. Download a list of dedicated online and telephone-based services for people with disability, older Australians, carers and for people experiencing domestic, family or sexual violence.

Crisis Payment

Changes have also been made to Crisis Payment to ensure people who are in financial hardship and need to self-isolate receive the support they need.

Simplifying income reporting

The Government is also creating flexibility associated with the commencement of the Simplifying Income Reporting Act, which was due to start on 1 July 2020. This will allow for the commencement date to be set taking into account the effect of the Coronavirus on income support recipients and Services Australia resources.

People with disability

The Government released the Management and operational plan for COVID-19 for people with disability on 17 April. This plan sets out a national approach to ensure that the healthcare needs of people with disability, their families and carers can be met during the pandemic, including access to appropriate screening, prevention and health care. You can find the full details of the plan on the Department of Health website.

The department understands that people with disability, their carers and their families may be particularly affected by coronavirus.

People with disability who need help because of coronavirus can contact the Disability Information Helpline on 1800 643 787. More information, links, resources and support are available on the department’s Disability and Carers webpage.

Information for DSS grant recipients – coronavirus

Frequently asked questions

What is the Coronavirus Supplement?

The Coronavirus Supplement is a temporary fortnightly payment that is being provided to recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance, Special Benefit, Widow Allowance, Partner Allowance, Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY (Living Allowance) and Austudy.

How much is the Coronavirus Supplement?

The temporary Coronavirus Supplement commenced on 27 April 2020 at a rate of $550 per fortnight until 24 September 2020. It is currently paid at $250 per fortnight to new and existing eligible income support recipients, in addition to their regular payment. From 1 January 2021 until 31 march 2021, it will be paid at a rate of $150 per fortnight.

Can I receive JobKeeper Payment and JobSeeker Payment at the same time?

Currently, a JobKeeper Payment recipient may be eligible to claim some JobSeeker Payment, depending on their circumstances. To be eligible for a part-payment of JobSeeker Payment a single with no dependents simply has to have income below the income cut out of $1,257 per fortnight, subject to meeting other requirements, such as residency and the assets test.

For example, a recipient who is single, with no dependent children and no other source of income who receives the full $1,200 per fortnight rate of JobKeeper Payment can also receive a JobSeeker Payment of $284.50 per fortnight, which includes the $250 per fortnight Coronavirus Supplement. A recipient who is single, with no dependent children and no other source of income who receives the $750 per fortnight rate of JobKeeper Payment can also receive a JobSeeker Payment of $554.50 per fortnight, which includes the $250 per fortnight Coronavirus Supplement. The amount of Coronavirus Supplement will be $150 from 1 January 2021.

People who are receiving both income support payments and JobKeeper Payment may also have mutual obligation requirements, depending on their circumstances. This is consistent with the arrangements for part-time workers who are also in receipt of income support payments.

Do I have to do anything to get it?

No. If you are in receipt of an eligible income support payment, you will automatically receive the Coronavirus Supplement.

Is the Coronavirus Supplement taxable?

Yes.

Will the Coronavirus Supplement go onto my Cashless Debit Card?

If you are in receipt of an eligible income support payment and you are a Cashless Debit Card participant, the Coronavirus Supplement will be treated the same as your regular payments. The Coronavirus Supplement will go onto your Cashless Debit Card using the same payment split that you currently receive. That is, 80 per cent of the whole income support payment will be placed onto your Cashless Debit Card and the remaining 20 per cent will be placed into your regular bank account.

Will the Coronavirus Supplement go into my Income Management account?

If you are in receipt of an eligible income support payment and you are an Income Management participant, the Coronavirus Supplement will be treated the same as your regular payments. The same payment split that you currently receive for your whole payment will still apply. The percentage that is placed in your Income Management account will depend on which Income Management measure you have been placed on.

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