As part of the government’s efforts to bolster the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have introduced an additional $550/fortnight payment for people who are already receiving some forms of Centrelink benefits – including those who get JobSeeker Payments.
This represents one of the biggest boosts to welfare benefits ever seen in Australia (and the largest since the dole was introduced during the 1940s). The intention is to assist individuals and families who are struggling during these tough times, while also allowing people to support their local businesses.
The coronavirus supplement began rolling out on April 27 and will last for 6 months. It effectively increases the maximum welfare rate for jobseekers from $565.70 to $1,115.70 per fortnight (i.e. an increase of $550).
Importantly, you can receive the full $550 supplement even if your regular Centrelink payment is tapered (e.g. you don’t usually receive the maximum amount due to other income).
Am I eligible for the Centrelink JobSeeker Payment?
The coronavirus supplement is generally available to anyone who:
- Has been fired or made redundant from their permanent employment
- Is self-employed or works on a casual/contract basis and now earns under $1,075 per fortnight due to the pandemic’s economic impact
- Cares for another person who has COVID-19.
To be eligible for the JobSeeker Payment itself, you’ll need to meet all these conditions:
- You’re aged between 22 and the Age Pension age
- You meet residence rules (i.e. you’re an Australian resident currently living here)
- Your income and assets are under the test limits (e.g. if you’re still earning a certain amount per fortnight, your payments will be reduced or you may not be eligible)
- You’re unemployed and seeking work OR you’re temporarily unable to perform your usual work or study due to an injury or illness (e.g. COVID-19).
Are there any other types of Centrelink payments I can receive due to the Coronavirus?
JobSeeker Payments aren’t the only Centrelink benefits that will come with a coronavirus supplement. People receiving the payments below are also eligible:
- Parenting Payment
- Special Benefit
- Youth Allowance (for both jobseekers and students)
- Austudy and ABSTUDY (for students)
- Farm Household
The handy thing is you don’t need to apply for this supplement if you’re already receiving JobSeeker Payments or any of the benefits listed above. It will be applied automatically to your usual payments – no need to queue up at your local Centrelink or hold for hours on the phone.
There are also some groups of people (including those on the aged pension and disability support pension, war veterans and widows) who will receive two lump sums of $750: one at the end of March and another in July. These lump sums will also be added automatically to each eligible person’s regular payments – you don’t need to apply for them separately.
How to Apply for Centrelink
Most Centrelink applications can be made entirely online and, due to the current pandemic, people are highly encouraged to do so. Centrelink’s phonelines are understandably busy, and going into a physical centre should only be considered as a last resort for social distancing purposes.
To claim a JobSeeker Payment online, you’ll need to set up a myGov account and link it to your Centrelink online account. If you’ve dealt with Centrelink or Medicare online, or filed a tax return online, you’ll likely already have a myGov account. If not, it’s relatively straightforward to set up.
Before making a claim, it’s a good idea to prepare any documents you’re likely to need. These might include:
- Your tax file number and bank account details
- Details of your savings account
- Income tax returns
- PAYG certificates and/or payslips
- Details of your partner’s income.
Once you’re ready, sign in to myGov and go to the Centrelink tab. Then select “Make a claim” from the menu, choose the category that matches your circumstances, and answer the questions. Make sure to double-check all your answers are correct and accurate before you hit the submit button.
After you submit, you’ll receive a receipt for your claim. You can use this to track your claim’s progress via the myGov website or the Express Plus Centrelink app.
For further instructions, visit the Services Australia website.