Who is eligible for the government’s Coronavirus support payments and how do you receive them?

With so many non-essential businesses closing their doors and health officials urging people to practice self-isolation, many Australians are facing the very real possibility that they will lose their jobs in the coming months. 

In fact, the Federal Government is expecting the ranks of unemployed Australians to increase by more than 1 million as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, which would bring the country’s unemployment rate from 5.1% to almost 15%.

In response, the Government has wheeled out a number of measures designed to help individuals who stand to be hit the hardest by the current downturn. These include:

  • $550 coronavirus supplement
  • $750 Economic Support payment

But who is eligible for these payments, and how do you go about receiving them? We take a look.

$550 coronavirus supplement

  • Who: eligible income support recipients (detailed below)
  • When does it start: 27 April 2020
  • Budget: approximately $14.1 billion

The government’s latest stimulus package includes a Coronavirus supplement of $550. This will be paid out to income support recipients every fortnight for six months, and will bring the maximum base rate to $1,115.70 per fortnight. Both new and existing recipients of the following payment categories will receive the supplement:

  • Jobseeker Payment (formerly Newstart)
  • Youth Allowance Jobseeker
  • Parenting Payment (Partnered and Single)
  • Farm Household Allowance
  • Special Benefit Recipients
  • Full-time students on Youth Allowance, Austudy, or ABSTUDY

The government will also be extending the Jobseeker Payment and Youth Allowance Jobseeker to employees that have lost their jobs or have been stood down, sole traders, the self-employed, casual workers, and contract workers who have been affected by the current downturn.

Anyone receiving payments that are currently transitioning to the Jobseeker Payment - such as the Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance, Sickness Allowance and Wife Pension - will also be included. 

Are there any requirements?

Sole traders and casual workers will need to be making less than $1,075 a fortnight to be eligible for the Coronavirus supplement.

Aside from that, a lot of the usual red tape has been significantly reduced. For example, asset tests conducted for JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker and Parenting Payment applicants will be waived for the duration of the coronavirus supplement period.

Waiting times will also be slashed to make sure financial support makes it to those who need it fast. The one week Ordinary Waiting Period will be waived, as will the Liquid Asset test Waiting Period (LAWP) and the Seasonal Work Preclusion Period (SWPP).

From 25 March 2020, applicants will also no longer be required to provide an Employment Separation Certificate, proof of rental arrangements, and verification of relationship status. However, this is only temporary.

How to get the $550 coronavirus supplement

If you’re already receiving one of the income support payments mentioned above, you won’t need to do anything; the payment will be credited to your bank account along with your usual welfare payments.

If, however, you’ve never had to navigate the world of Centrelink and have suddenly found yourself in need of its services, you'll need to create an account and link it to your MyGov account. From there, select ‘Payments and Claims’ from the menu and you’ll be able to begin the claim process.

$750 Economic Support Payment

  • Who: eligible income support recipients (detailed below)
  • When does it start: first payment from 31 March, second payment from 13 July
  • Budget: approximately $8.8 billion

The government will also be making two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders to help ease some of the financial strain caused by the coronavirus outbreak. 

The first payment will be paid automatically from 31 March, and will be given to residents of Australia who receive any of the following payments between 12 March 2020 and 13 April 2020 (along with anyone who lodges a claim for one of these payments over the same period and is subsequently approved):

  • Age Pension
  • Disability Support Pension
  • Carer Payment
  • Carer Allowance
  • Parenting Payment
  • Wife Pension
  • Widow B Pension
  • ABSTUDY (Living Allowance)
  • Austudy
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Newstart Allowance
  • Partner Allowance
  • Sickness Allowance
  • Special Benefit
  • Widow Allowance
  • Farm Household Allowance
  • Family Tax Benefit A
  • Family Tax Benefit B
  • Double Orphan Pension.
  • Veteran Service Pension
  • Veteran Income Support Supplement
  • Veteran Compensation payments, including lump sum payments
  • War Widow(er) Pension.

The following card holders will also be eligible for the payment:

  • Pensioner Concession Card
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
  • Veteran Gold Card

The second $750 payment will be paid automatically from 13 July, and will be issued to Australian residents who were eligible for the first payment, but will exclude anyone receiving an income support payment that is eligible to receive the $550 Coronavirus supplement.

All told, these payments will extend some much-needed support to millions of Australians, particularly pensioners. The government expects 6.6 million welfare recipients and eligible concession card holders will benefit from the first payment, while approximately 5 million will benefit from the second.

The payments will not be taxed and won’t count as income when calculating Social Security, Farm Household Allowance and Veteran payments. They also won’t be used to pay off any existing Centrelink or Child Support debt.

How to get the $750 economic support payment

If you’re receiving one of the income support payments mentioned above, you won’t have to do anything to receive the economic support payment — it will be transferred to you automatically. 

To make sure the payment has no problem making its way to your nominated bank account, log into MyGov or Centrelink and check your details are all up to date. You can also do this via the Express Plus Centrelink app.

Crisis Payment

Anyone who is facing financial hardship and either needs to self-isolate or is caring for someone who is self-isolating will also be able to access the Crisis Payment. This is a one-off payment equivalent to one week of your existing income support payment rate.

How to get the Crisis Payment

  • You must make a claim within 7 days of your crisis by calling Services Australia on 132 850. 
  • Download and complete the relevant forms found on this Services Australia page. Anyone currently experiencing family or domestic violence may be able to bypass this stage.
  • Submit your claim form and any other necessary documents online (using your Centrelink online account or the Express Plus Centrelink app) or by post. You’ll also be able to drop it off at a service centre, but given the current health concerns it might be best to use phone and internet services instead.

Once you’ve ticked off those boxes, all that’s left to do is wait for a response from Services Australia. This will arrive in your myGov Inbox, Centrelink online account or Express Plus Centrelink mobile app (or by post if that's preferable), and will let you know if your claim has been accepted, how much you’ll receive, and when you’ll receive it.

For more information on the government assistance available, read about what your state is doing to help during the coronavirus outbreak.