Many people are seeking help to navigate Centrelink for the first time in their lives, now the coronavirus has wreaked havoc with Australia’s economy.

Do you qualify?

What payments are available?

The most common payment is the JobSeeker Payment, formerly Newstart. The payment has been temporarily doubled as part of the government’s coronavirus stimulus package, which will come into effect on April 27 and lasting for at least six months. New and existing recipients are now eligible for up to $1,100 per fortnight, up from $550 previously.

A new Coronavirus supplement is to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight for the next six months. This will be paid to both existing and new recipients of the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.

There is also a one-off $750 Economic Support Payment if you’re living in Australia and get an eligible payment between 12 March 2020 and 13 April 2020. Some eligible payments include: JobSeeker Payment, Carer Payment, ABSTUDY, Partner Allowance and more. See the full list of eligible payments on Service Australia’s website.

Am I eligible?

A new category of JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance JobSeeker will become available for eligible individuals who are financially impacted by the Coronavirus.

From April 27, you’ll be eligible if you’re:

  • A permanent employee who has been stood down or sacked
  • A sole trader, self-employed, casual worker or contract worker who now earns less than $1,075 a fortnight as a result of the economic downturn
  • You’re caring for someone who has COVID-19

Will I be getting the full amount?

The Jobseeker and Youth Allowance payments are tapered, meaning if you earn $0 for the fortnight you’ll get the full welfare payment, but if you still have some income (but remain below the income threshold) you will receive a portion of the payment.

It is now much less complex to apply

Services Australia have suspended mutual obligation requirements and asset testing for JobSeeker Payments.

Employment separation certificates are no longer required, in addition to rental agreements and verification of relationship status.

How to apply?

You can apply without joining the mighty lines outside Centrelink or trying the overwhelmed hotline. Do it online from your home.

As of Tuesday night March 24, there has been an ‘intent to claim’ process available on MyGov. This means that someone can start their claim process without a Centrelink customer reference number (CRN), and then provide their documentation at a later date.

In the past, new clients also had to attend Centrelink offices in person to confirm their identity. This has been axed, and can instead be done over the phone. “We’ll take your word for it, understanding these are exceptional circumstances,” said Ruston.

When will the payments roll in?

Most likely in April. Some people who are eligible for the one-off $750 Economic Support Payment will start seeing the money from March 31. But ‘most’ clients can expect to receive the payment by April 17, says Centrelink in a statement.

Will payments be backdated?

All payments will be backdated to the time you register your ‘intent to claim’.

If my partner still has a job, am I eligible for Centrelink?

The government has raised the threshold from $1,850 a fortnight ($48,100 a year) to $79,000 a year, in the latest COVID-19 relief update on March 30.

If your partner earns under the new threshold, $79,000 or so, and you lose your job, you will be able to access the new Centrelink payments.

For Centrelink purposes a person is considered to be your partner if you and the person are living together, or usually live together, and are: Married; or. In a registered relationship; or. In a de facto relationship.

Am I eligible if I’m on accrued leave or took a redundancy package?

You cannot be on sick leave, annual leave or long service leave and access Centrelink benefits at the same time. The same applies if you have unused leave.

If you’ve lost your job due to the coronavirus pandemic and had annual leave accrued, your employer must pay you for the period of untaken leave, which makes you ineligible for that said period.

In this case you may become eligible for Centrelink payments afterwards.

If you took a redundancy package, it may also impact your eligibility or the level of support you can receive.

Can I access my superannuation early?

This is an option but it should be your absolute last resort.

If you absolutely need to, the government is allowing individuals who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus situation to access $10,000 of their superannuation this financial year, and a further $10,000 next financial year.

The withdrawn amount is tax-free, and won’t impact your current Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.

To be eligible for early release, you need to meet one or more of the requirements listed on the ATO website.

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