Along with all of the health implications and risks associated with Covid-19, the quickly-spreading virus has also caused plenty of problems for the economy as many businesses have been forced to close their doors.
With job losses already rising, the government has changed the rules around assistance for unemployed Australians to allow more people to claim much-needed benefits. This includes those who have not yet reached the age of eligibility for the Age Pension but have been financially affected by the virus.
Services Australia has introduced new rules for those who are unable to work, don’t have work, are in isolation, are hospitalised or are caring for children. The payments available include the Youth Allowance for those under 24, Parenting Payment for principle carers of a child (under six if in a couple and under eight if single) and the JobSeeker payment (previously known as Newstart) for those who are looking for work and aged between 22 and pension eligibility age.
Due to the growing number of unemployed Australians, the government has also attempted to make the application for process easier. For those who already have an online Centrelink account and a Customer Registration Number (CRN), applications can be made online via MyGov. Otherwise an application for benefits can be made over the phone.
The ordinary waiting period of three months for payments to start has been waived, along with the liquid asset test waiting period, newly arrived residents waiting period, seasonal work preclusion period, mutual obligation or participation requirements as well as the assets test for six months from March 25. However, the income test will still apply.
Applications also no longer need an employment separation certificate, bank statement, proof of reduced work hours or proof of your rental arrangements to be approved. More information on the updated process can be found here.
If you’ve found yourself unemployed and are not yet eligible for the pension, you may qualify for the JobSeeker payment. On top of the usual allocated fortnightly amount, unemployed workers will now also receive the temporary coronavirus supplement of an additional $550 a fortnight from April 27.
Around seven million eligible Australians – including those in receipt of the JobSeekers payment – will also receive the first $750 Economic Support Payment from March 31. There will then be a second $750 Economic Support Payment from July 13 2020, however you won’t get this payment if you’re already receiving the coronavirus supplement.
During this time, Centrelink has temporarily expanded eligibility for the JobSeeker payments. The welfare payment is now open to permanent employees who have been stood down or lost their job, sole traders, self-employed, casual or contract workers whose income has reduced or those who are caring for someone who’s affected by coronavirus.
However, it’s worth noting that if you get a JobSeeker payment, you can’t access employer entitlements at the same time. This includes annual leave or sick leave, or income protection insurance.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services advice.