Government response to Coronavirus

The Government is providing a range of measures to address the global health crisis related to Coronavirus also known as COVID-19.

COVID-19 supplement

The COVID-19 supplement commenced on 27 April 2020 to recipients of eligible income support payments, including JSP. Anyone who receives any amount of an eligible income support payment receives the full amount of the coronavirus supplement.

From 27 April 2020 up to 24 September 2020, the rate of the coronavirus supplement is $550 per fortnight. From 25 September 2020, the rate of coronavirus supplement is $250 per fortnight.

Note: Social Security (Coronavirus Economic Response 2020 Measures No.14) Determination 2020 extends the coronavirus supplement up to 18 December 2020. A subsequent instrument will be required to extend the coronavirus supplement up to 31 December 2020, as announced by the Government as part of the July Economic and Fiscal Update 2020.

Where payable, the coronavirus supplement is paid as a supplement to the primary payment for which a person qualifies. The coronavirus supplement is taxable and is paid at the same time as a person's primary payment. Eligible payment recipients do not need to make a separate claim for the coronavirus supplement. It is automatically paid with a person's main payment, Recipients of the following payments qualify for the coronavirus supplement:

  • JSP (formerly NSA)
  • YA (job seeker, student and apprentice)
  • PP (partnered and single)
  • sickness allowance
  • austudy payment
  • ABSTUDY living allowance
  • widow allowance
  • partner allowance
  • farm household allowance
  • special benefit.

Expanding eligibility & qualification for payments

From 25 March 2020 to 31 December 2020, the Government has also temporarily expanded eligibility and qualification criteria for JSP and YA (job seeker) to assist:

  • sole traders and self-employed people. They are able to meet mutual obligation requirements by continuing to operate their businesses.
  • people caring for someone infected or in isolation as a result of contact with COVID-19.

The Government has also temporarily waived, for certain payments, from 25 March 2020:

  • the assets test (waived until 24 September 2020)
  • the OWP
  • the LAWP (waived until 24 September 2020)
  • the SWPP
  • the NARWP
  • the qualifying residence period (PP only).

The period for which the OWP, SWPP, NARWP and PP qualifying residence period are waived is linked to the period of the coronavirus supplement (see above).

Income testing still applies. From 27 April 2020 the taper rate for the partner income test associated with JSP changed from 60c to 25c and from 25 September 2020 this rate increased to 27c. This change is temporary and will operate until the COVID-19 supplement ceases to be payable. As a result of this change, the new partner income test cut-out for JSP will be $3,086.10 per fortnight.

From 25 September 2020 to 31 December 2020 the income free area for JSP and YA (other) has been increased to $300 a fortnight, with these payments being reduced by 60c in the dollar for amounts earned over $300 a fortnight.

Also from 25 March 2020 to 31 December 2020, access to payments has become easier with a temporary removal of the requirement for an Employment Separation Certificate, pay slips and verification of relationship status. The requirement to provide proof of rental arrangements and bank account balances was waived from 25 March 2020 to 24 September 2020.

The requirement for in-person identity verification at Centrelink offices at the point of claim has been temporarily waived from 24 March to 24 September 2020. Instead, applicants are permitted to declare identity information via telephony channel and upload identity documentation via myGov. 6 months is allowed for full submission of required identity documentation. Payment suspensions may be applied if not completed within the allowed timeframe.

Two economic support payments

The Government is providing two $750 economic support payments to recipients of social security and veterans' payments, ABSTUDY living allowance, farm household allowance and FTB as well as holders of a PCC, CSHC or Commonwealth Gold Card.

The first economic support payment of $750 was paid to people who were residing in Australia and, on a day in the period 12 March 2020 to 13 April 2020, received either:

  • age pension
  • disability support pension
  • carer payment
  • parenting payment
  • wife pension
  • widow B pension
  • ABSTUDY (living allowance)
  • austudy payment
  • bereavement allowance
  • newstart allowance/jobseeker payment
  • youth allowance
  • partner allowance
  • sickness allowance
  • special benefit
  • widow allowance
  • FTB, including DOP
  • carer allowance
  • pensioner concession card
  • Commonwealth seniors health card
  • 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.

The second economic support payment of $750 is being paid to people who were residing in Australia and receiving a qualifying payment or concession card on 10 July 2020. The qualifying payments and concession cards are the same as those for the first economic support payment but will not be paid to people who receive the COVID-19 supplement.

Services Australia and DVA commenced automatically delivering the first economic support payment from 31 March 2020 and the second economic support payment from 13 July 2020.

See 3.7.7 2020 economic support payments (ESP) for more information.

Support through JSP

Eligibility for JSP is the same as the former NSA and has been broadened to include access for people who are temporarily sick or injured and unable to return to work or study, and as such is replacing SA.

It also removes the need to apply for a new payment once a person is well but their job is no longer available.

People will not be required to present a medical certificate to claim JSP if they are affected by Coronavirus and in a period of isolation and therefore temporarily unable to work.

If people are sick, have to self-isolate, or caring for someone exposed to Coronavirus they may be able to qualify for JSP on the basis of temporary inability to work. These people will not be subject to mutual obligation requirements if on payment for this reason.

If people lose their jobs or have less hours of work as a result of economic conditions resulting from Coronavirus they may be able to qualify for JSP subject to meeting other eligibility requirements.

Crisis payment

From 25 March 2020, changes have also been made to CrP to ensure income support recipients who are in financial hardship and are required to be in quarantine or self-isolation, or care for another person who is required to be in quarantine or self-isolation in order to prevent the possible transmission of COVID-19 receive the support they need.

CrP is equal to 1 week of the person's maximum basic rate of payment. For example, if a single person with a dependent child receives JSP and their maximum basic rate of payment per fortnight is $612.00, a CrP would be $306.00.

See 3.7.4.45 Qualification for CrP - national health emergency (NHE) for more information.

Isolation related temporary exemptions from mutual obligations

Current income support recipients who cannot meet mutual obligation requirements due to isolation should call Services Australia and can be granted a major personal crisis exemption, without having to provide evidence such as a medical certificate.

Students receiving YA (student) or other study related payments who are in Australia but unable to attend studies due to Coronavirus would be taken to have a reasonable excuse for not meeting study activity requirements for their payments. Individuals in this situation must contact Services Australia to advise them of the circumstances.

Simplifying income reporting

The Government has also created flexibility associated with the commencement of the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Income Reporting and Other Measures) Act 2020, which was due to start on 1 July 2020. This allows for the commencement date to be set taking into account the effect of COVID-19 on income support recipients and Services Australia resources.

Portability of Age & DSP

The Government is enabling Age and certain DSP recipients who are temporarily overseas to apply for a portability extension if they are unable to return to Australia within 26 weeks because of COVID-19. Normally after 26 weeks overseas, payment may be proportionalised based on the person's AWLR and supplements, such as RA, will cease. The extension will ensure the person's payment rate is not affected after 26 weeks overseas.

Certain Age and DSP recipients who ordinarily live overseas but are temporarily in Australia may also be unable to return home due to COVID-19. In some cases, a return to Australia for more than 26 weeks can affect their current portability entitlements if they were grandfathered under changes made in 2000 or 2014.

Age and DSP recipients who have been grandfathered under the pre-20 September 2000 and/or pre-1 July 2014 changes and who are unable to leave Australia within 26 weeks because of COVID-19 will also be able to apply for an extension to this 26 week period to ensure they can maintain their current grandfathered portability entitlements.

Age and DSP recipients will be eligible to apply for an extension if they reach 26 weeks temporarily overseas, or in Australia as the case may be, on or after 11 March 2020. Extensions will be available until 31 December 2020.

See 7.2.2.10 Calculating proportional portability for non-agreement pensions; 7.1.1.10 Overview of portability legislation.

Payments for carers

The Government is providing CP and CA recipients whose care receiver has turned 16 years and requires assessment against the ADAT with an additional 3 months to complete and return their forms. This will allow carers additional time to seek medical reports, until the care receiver turns 16 years and 6 months of age.

The extension will be available until 24 September 2020.

See 3.6.4.34 Qualification for CP (child) - Transition (Turning 16 Years of Age) from CP (child) to CP (adult); 3.6.7.42 Qualification for CA (child) - Transition (Turning 16 Years of Age) from CA (child) to CA (adult).

MOB

The Government is extending the grace period for MOB from 12 weeks to 18 weeks where the recipient ceases their qualifying activity (e.g. lost their job or worked less than 32 hours in a 4 week period) and from 2 weeks to 18 weeks where the recipient is working from home and does not satisfy the travel test.

Extensions will be for 18 weeks or until 31 December 2020, whichever occurs first.

See 3.6.6.100 Termination of MOB; 3.6.6.60 Travel test for MOB.

Further information

Please visit The Treasury's Economic Response to the Coronavirus webpage for more information on the economic response to COVID-19, including fact sheets and an overview of the package.

Please visit the Minister for Families and Social Services' webpage for Ministerial announcements on DSS related measures.

Please visit the Department of Health's Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert webpage for general health information on Coronavirus.

Last reviewed: 25 September 2020