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.

1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021

Further extension of some temporary measures

The Government has further extended the following temporary measures from 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021:

  • expanded eligibility and qualification criteria for JSP and YA (job seeker) to assist people in quarantine or self-isolation or caring for a family member or household member in quarantine or self-isolation as a result of contact with COVID-19
  • waiver of the OWP
  • portability extensions for Age and certain DSP recipients who are temporarily overseas, or in Australia, if they are unable to return to their normal place of residence within 26 weeks because of COVID-19.

The Government announced permanent changes to rates of working age payments and ordinary income free areas from 1 April 2021.

25 March 2020 to 31 March 2021

Coronavirus Supplement

The Coronavirus Supplement commenced on 27 April 2020 for 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 to 24 September 2020, the rate of the Coronavirus Supplement was $550 per fortnight. From 25 September 2020 to 31 December 2020, the rate of Coronavirus Supplement is $250 per fortnight. From 1 January 2021 to 31 March 2021, the rate of Coronavirus Supplement is $150 per fortnight.

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
  • certain DVA student payments.

Expanding eligibility & qualification for payments

From 25 March 2020 to 31 March 2021, the Government 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.

From 25 March 2020 to 30 June 2021, the Government temporarily expanded eligibility and qualification criteria for JSP and YA (job seeker) to assist people in quarantine or self-isolation or caring for a family member or household member in quarantine or self-isolation as a result of contact with COVID-19 and temporarily waived the OWP for certain payments.

The Government temporarily waived, for certain payments, from 25 March 2020 to 31 March 2021:

  • the SWPP
  • the NARWP
  • the qualifying residence period (PP only).

The assets test and the LAWP were waived from 25 March 2020 to 24 September 2020.

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 to 31 March 2021 this rate is 27c. As a result of this change, the partner income test cut-out for JSP is $3,086.10 per fortnight for this period.

From 25 September 2020 to 31 March 2021, the income free area for JSP (except for single principal carer parents who have an income free area of $106 with a 40c taper rate) 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.

To allow faster access to payments in response to COVID-19, evidentiary requirements for new claimants of income support to provide Employment Separation Certificates and pay slips were temporarily removed from 25 March 2020 to 31 December 2020. These evidentiary requirements resumed from 1 January 2021.

The requirement for new claimants of income support to provide verification of relationship status was temporarily waived from 25 March 2020 to 31 March 2021.

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 had been temporarily waived from 24 March to 24 September 2020. Instead, applicants were permitted to declare identity information via telephony channel and upload identity documentation via myGov. Six months was allowed for full submission of required identity documentation. Payment suspensions may be applied if not completed within the allowed timeframe.

Economic support payments

The Government has provided 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 was 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 was not paid to people who receive the Coronavirus 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.

Further economic support payments

The Government provided 2 additional economic support payments of $250 each. The payments were provided to people who were residing in Australia and receiving a qualifying payment or concession card on the relevant test date. The test date for the first $250 economic support payment is 27 November 2020, with payments made from December 2020. The test date for the second $250 economic support payment is 26 February 2021, with payments made from March 2021.

The additional payments were provided to:

  • recipients of Age, DSP and CP
  • recipients of CA and FTB including DOP (not in receipt of a primary income support payment)
  • eligible DVA payments and Gold Card holders
  • holders of a CSHC and certain PCC holders (not in receipt of a primary income support payment).

See 3.7.7 2020 & 2021 economic support payments (ESPs) for more information.

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. The Simplifying Income Reporting Measure commenced on 7 December 2020.

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 can also apply for an extension to this 26-week period to ensure they can maintain their current grandfathered portability entitlements.

Age and DSP recipients are 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. The Government has extended this arrangement to 30 June 2021.

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

MOB

The Government extended the grace period for MOB from 12 weeks to 18 weeks where the recipient ceased their qualifying activity (e.g. lost their job or worked, volunteered or undertook training for less than 32 hours in a 4-week period) and from 2 weeks to 18 weeks where the recipient was working from home and did not satisfy the travel test.

Extensions were for 18 weeks or until 31 March 2021, whichever occurred first.

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

Nil rate period extension

In response to COVID-19, the employment income nil rate period (3.1.12) was extended to ensure recipients can take up work wherever possible and be able to return to income support seamlessly if their work reduces or ceases.

Since 22 June 2020, recipients whose employment income has reduced their rate of payment to zero have retained eligibility for payment. Recipients remain eligible for certain add on benefits including concession cards during this nil rate period, and must continue to report their income each fortnight.

This measure will be discontinued after 16 April 2021, at which time the employment income nil rate period will revert to 6 fortnights. As of 17 April 2021, recipients who have been on a nil rate period for 6 fortnights or longer will lose eligibility for payment as per rules prior to 22 June 2020. Individuals who have been on a nil rate for less than 6 fortnights will remain eligible until their 6 fortnights of nil rate have concluded, or their income falls below their cut-out threshold, whichever occurs first.

Supporting economic recovery & financial independence during COVID-19

The Government is assisting self-supporting young people applying for YA to be considered independent.

From 1 January 2021, the 6-month period between 25 March 2020 and 24 September 2020 (the COVID-19 concession period) will automatically be recognised as contributing to existing workforce independence criteria for YA. Young people being assessed for independence will be deemed to have been in work (for at least the minimum amount of hours or dollars required to be earned, depending on the criteria being assessed) for the COVID-19 concession period. Where the young person has worked more hours or earned more than the minimum, the higher value will be assessed.

In addition, the Government is incentivising Australians to undertake seasonal work in order to demonstrate their independence. A young person claiming YA (student) between 1 March 2021 and 1 March 2023 can be deemed independent if they have gross earnings of $15,000 from qualifying agricultural work undertaken between 30 November 2020 and 31 December 2021. For this to apply, young people must also have a combined parental income for either the 2018-19 or 2019-20 tax years that is less than $160,000 (plus $10,000 for each 'additional child').

See 3.2.5.80 YA & DSP - self-supporting through paid employment; 3.2.5.85 YA concessional workforce independence criteria for regional students.

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: 1 April 2021