Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and support

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

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Whole of Government response to coronavirus

The Australian Government is providing 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 coronavirus including details of the JobKeeper payment scheme and an overview of the Government's targeted economic response packages.

For Department of Social Services specific related measures, please visit the Minister for Families and Social Services' webpage for Ministerial announcements.

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

Gradual return of mutual obligation requirements

The Government is introducing a further step in the gradual return to mutual obligation arrangements for all job seekers from 28 September 2020, with the exception of Victoria where mutual obligation requirements will remain suspended.

The Government previously announced that as steps are taken to re-open the Australian economy, mutual obligation requirements for job seekers will re-commence gradually.

From 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 will 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,
  • looking for work,
  • accepting an offer of suitable work.

For some job seekers, who have been on income support for 12 months, Work for the Dole activities will also recommence where it is safe to do so and all healthy 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, 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 is being 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.

Job seekers will be notified of their requirements ahead of the 28 September 2020 resumption.

The Government announced on 2 August 2020 that mutual obligations for jobseekers in Victoria will not recommence and no penalties or suspensions will apply until further notice. Employment service providers in Victoria will take all local health advice into consideration when making arrangements for job seekers.

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.

Extension of income support – announcement on 21 July 2020

On 21 July 2020, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer announced some changes to the Government’s social safety net for people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. These changes include:

  • An adjusted Coronavirus Supplement to be paid at $250 a fortnight from 25 September 2020 until 31 December 2020.
  • An increase in the income free area for JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other) from 25 September 2020 to 31 December 2020 to $300 a fortnight with these payments being reduced by 60c in the dollar amounts earned over $300 a fortnight.
  • Reinstatement of means testing in the following ways from 25 September 2020:
    • asset testing for all payments will be reinstated, for both existing and new recipients;
    • the liquid assets waiting period (LAWP) for all payments will be reinstated for new recipients; and
    • the JobSeeker Payment partner income test taper rate will increase from 25 cents to 27 cents for every dollar of partner income earned over $1,165 per fortnight, ensuring that an eligible person with no income can receive the JobSeeker Payment and Coronavirus Supplement provided their partner earns less than $80,238.89 per annum, until 31 December 2020.
  • Expanded eligibility criteria – JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other) eligibility criteria will continue to provide payment access for permanent employees who are stood down or lose their employment and sole traders, the self-employed, casual workers and contract workers who meet the income and assets tests until 31 December 2020.
  • Reduced waiting times – The Ordinary Waiting Period, Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period (NARWP) and the Seasonal Work Preclusion Period will continue to be waived until 31 December 2020.

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. Or 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.

Reduction in the partner income test taper rate

As part of the response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Government temporarily reduced the JobSeeker Payment partner income test taper rate from 60 cents to 25 cents from 27 April 2020. This allowed more couples to access payment where one of the couple loses their job and goes onto JobSeeker Payment, and the working partner is on a more modest income.

The JobSeeker Payment partner income test taper rate will increase from 25 cents to 27 cents from 25 September 2020.

What is the change?

  • Under income test arrangements, the income a person's partner earns is taken into account when determining their rate of payment. Before 27 April 2020, every dollar over the partner income free area of $996 per fortnight, reduced the person's JobSeeker Payment by 60 cents.
  • Under the current partner income test introduced on 27 April 2020, the taper rate for the partner income test associated with JobSeeker Payment changed from 60c to 25c. As a result of this change, the current partner income test cut-out for JobSeeker Payment is $3,070.80 per fortnight. These arrangements will end on 24 September 2020.
  • From 25 September 2020 to 31 December 2020, the JobSeeker Payment partner income test will increase from 25c to 27c for every dollar of partner income earned over the partner income free area of $1,165 per fortnight. This will allow a person with no income to receive the JobSeeker Payment and Coronavirus Supplement provided their partner earns less than $80,238.89 per annum.
  • New and existing JobSeeker Payment recipients whose payment rate is adjusted because of partner income will benefit from this proposal.

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 carer's webpage.

First Economic Support Payment

On 12 March 2020, the Government announced it will provide an Economic Support payment of $750 to approximately 6.8 million existing payment recipients and concession card holders that are eligible as at 12 March 2020. On 22 March 2020, the eligibility criteria for this payment was extended to new payment recipients who are eligible for their payment or card between 12 March 2020 to 13 April 2020 (inclusive). As long as someone had lodged a claim for an eligible payment and was eligible for that payment by 13 April 2020, they should have already received this Economic Support Payment via Services Australia or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Payments were made from 31 March 2020 and would have been received by the majority of recipients by 17 April 2020.

Eligibility for the first Economic Support Payment was for the following payment recipients and concession cardholders, given that they resided in Australia and were eligible as at 13 April 2020:

  • 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 Government announced on 22 March 2020, it would provide a second Economic Support Payment of $750 to approximately 5 million recipients under the same eligibility criteria as the first Economic Support payment, provided the recipient does not receive the Coronavirus Supplement. If recipients were eligible on 10 July 2020, they would be eligible to receive the second Economic Support payment. Payments commenced on 13 July 2020 and should have already been received automatically via Services Australia or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for the majority of recipients.

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

Coronavirus Supplement

On 22 March 2020, the Government announced it will provide a temporary payment of $550 per fortnight, known as the Coronavirus Supplement, to new and existing eligible income support recipients until 24 September 2020.

Since 27 April 2020, recipients of the following payments have been receiving the Coronavirus Supplement:

  • JobSeeker Payment (formerly known as Newstart Allowance)
  • Youth Allowance
  • Sickness Allowance
  • ABSTUDY (Living Allowance)
  • Austudy
  • Parenting Payment
  • Partner Allowance
  • Widow Allowance
  • Farm Household Allowance
  • Special Benefit.

On 21 July 2020, the Government announced that it is extending the payment period of the Coronavirus Supplement to eligible recipients to continue supporting them during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Coronavirus Supplement is being extended at a rate of $250 per fortnight from 25 September 2020 to 31 December 2020. This change reflects the gradually improving economic and labour market conditions and will balance the level of support people are receiving with incentives to get back into the job market.

Expanding Eligibility and Qualification for Payments

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

  • 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.

The following eligibility criteria are currently waived, for certain payments:

  • the assets test
  • the Ordinary Waiting Period
  • the Liquid Assets Waiting Period
  • the Seasonal Workers Preclusion Period
  • the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period.

Access to payments also became easier with a temporary removal of the requirement for an Employment Separation Certificate, proof of rental arrangements and verification of relationship status.

On 21 July 2020, the Government announced that access to payments would change from 25 September 2020 to ensure appropriate targeting of income support as the economy recovers.

As part of the new measures, both asset testing and the liquid assets waiting period will be reintroduced for all payments from 25 September 2020. This means that people who have assets above a certain amount may no longer be 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 they have access to.

The Ordinary Waiting Period, Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period and the Seasonal Work Preclusion Period will continue to be waived until 31 December 2020.

Adjusted Income Taper Test

On 21 July 2020, the Government announced new 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. From 25 September 2020, the income free area for JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other) will be increased.

Under the current income test rules, JobSeeker Payment recipients can earn up to $106 per fortnight before their income is impacted. For each dollar of income that they earn between $106 and $256 per fortnight, their JobSeeker Payment is reduced by 50 cents, while each dollar they earn above $256 per fortnight, reduces their payment by 60 cents.

Youth Allowance (other) recipients can currently earn up to $143 per fortnight before their income is impacted. For each dollar of income that they earn between $143 and $250 per fortnight, their Youth Allowance (other) is reduced by 50 cents, while each dollar they earn above $250 per fortnight, reduces their payment by 60 cents.

From 25 September 2020, recipients of both JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other) will now be 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 and Youth Allowance (other) is affected.

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

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.

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, Sickness Allowance, 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 and is currently paid at $550 per fortnight to new and existing eligible income support recipients, in addition to their regular payment.

From 25 September 2020, the Coronavirus Supplement will be paid at a rate of $250 per fortnight to reflect the gradually improving economic and labour market conditions.

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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