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Has COVID-19 left you out of work? Here's what financial help is available and how to access it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the global economy.

Here in Australia, the shutdown of non-essential services and the economic fallout has meant thousands and thousands of Australians have been left out of work and without income.

Money worries and unemployment are always overwhelming, let alone with the added stress of a global pandemic, health fears and the inability to leave your house.

All your COVID-19 questions, answered. Post continues below video.

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But if you do find yourself unemployed or with a drastically cut income due to the downturn caused by COVID-19, the government has announced measures to help you out.

We’ve cut through the noise and done the legwork for you – here is what you need to know if you find yourself in such a scenario:

What help is available?

On Monday night, Federal Parliament rushed through $84 billion in financial support for employees, students and businesses without objection.

If you lose work because of the COVID-19 pandemic or cannot work due to self-isolation and/or contracting the coronavirus, you will be able to claim support from the federal government.

What is the Coronavirus Supplement?

If you’ve found yourself affected by the economic downturn, you’ll be able to access the Coronavirus Supplement of $550 a fortnight ($275 a week) for six months, from April 27. It means the JobSeeker Payment, previously known as Newstart, will effectively double.

That’s on top of other benefits too, so if you’re already receiving payments through JobSeeker, you can claim both.

Who is eligible for the Coronavirus Supplement?

The Coronavirus Supplement will go to anyone receiving:

  • JobSeeker Payment
  • Sickness Allowance
  • Youth Allowance for jobseekers
  • Parenting Payment Partnered
  • Parenting Payment Single
  • Partner Allowance
  • Farm Household Allowance

The government has temporarily expanded eligibility for the JobSeeker and Youth Allowance payments, meaning you may be eligible if you are:

  • A permanent employee who has been stood down or lost your job
  • A sole trader, self-employed, a casual or contract worker whose income has reduced
  • Caring for someone who’s affected by COVID-19.

Sole traders and casual workers who are currently making less than $1,075 a fortnight will be eligible to receive the full supplement.

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“We have waived the assets tests and waived the waiting period but there is still the income test so if you earn $1,075 a fortnight you will get that full $550 Coronavirus Supplement,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

“This is good news for a sole trader who is still in work but has seen the income reduce.

“If you are a casual and you still have some hours but your income has fallen below that $1,075 a fortnight you will get the supplement.”

Students receiving financial help were not originally included, but the Morrison government made a last-minute decision to include students on Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy in the package that passed parliament on Monday night.

When does the Coronavirus Supplement start?

Payments will begin on April 27 and will be available for at least six months.

How do I claim the Coronavirus Supplement?

If you are already receiving one of the above welfare payments, you do not need to do anything. Services Australia will automatically pay the Coronavirus Supplement to eligible recipients from April 27.


If you are not currently receiving welfare, you will need to apply.

You can apply online at MyGov using a Centrelink account or by contacting Services Australia by phone. It is recommended to begin applications online or via the Centrelink app.

On Monday, thousands of people lined up for hours outside Centrelink offices across Australia, but on Tuesday Social Services Minister Anne Ruston told Nine’s Today show that only those without a phone or access to the internet should line up.

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“If we can all avoid going to Centrelink today, that would be great,” she said.

Centrelink will boost its workforce by 5000 people to deal with the influx of applicants and extend call centre hours, but because of social distancing measures there will be less staff at centres.

With the influx, wait times and long queues online and in person are to be expected. Before getting in contact, it is worth reading the FAQs on Services Australia’s website.

Is there a waiting period and asset test for the Coronavirus Supplement?

Waiting periods and liquid asset tests have been waived for the Coronavirus Supplement.

Can I access annual leave or income protection as well?

No. You cannot receive JobSeeker or Youth Allowance payments at the same time you are receiving employer entitlements such as annual leave and sick leave.

Once you have exhausted your leave, you will be eligible.

You also cannot receive payments if you’re accessing income protection insurance.

What other measures have been announced?

Households.

On Monday, the government announced a second $750 stimulus payment in addition of the first $750 payment announced earlier this month.

The first payment, made automatically from March 31 and the second payment, from July 13, will reach about five million Australians, including those receiving the age pension, a carers allowance, or family tax benefit and Commonwealth Senior Card holders.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the payment acknowledged that this downturn will likely last a long time and vulnerable groups may need additional income support.

“Yes, it will provide some sort of support for the economy, but it will also provide some very real financial support for the most vulnerable in our community,” he said.

Pensioners.

Deeming rates, which are used for the pension income assessment, will be reduced by another 0.25 percentage points to reflect the latest rate reductions by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Beginning in early May, the lower deeming rate will be 0.25 per cent and the upper deeming rate will be 2.25 per cent.

The government said this change will benefit around 900,000 income support recipients, including age pensioners.

Small businesses and not-for-profits.

Small businesses and NFPs with a turnover under $50 million will receive a tax-free cash payment of up to $100,000 to help them keep staff and continue operations.

690,000 businesses employing close to eight million people and 30,000 not-for-profits will be eligible, according to government figures.

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“Whether it is a coffee shop or mechanic or hairdresser… by providing at a minimum $20,000 and up to $100,000 for small businesses who employ people, [it] gives them a chance to get to the other side.”

Superannuation.

As an absolute last resort, the government is allowing individuals financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to access $10,000 of their super this financial year, and another $10,000 next financial year.

This withdrawal will be tax-free, and will have no baring on your current Centrelink payments.

From mid-April 2020, eligible individuals will be able to apply online through myGov to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation before July 1, 2020. They will also be able to access up to a further $10,000 from July 1, 2020, for approximately three months.

To be eligible, you must satisfy one or more of the following requirements:

  • You are unemployed
  • You are eligible to receive a job seeker payment, youth allowance for jobseekers, parenting payment, special benefit or farm household allowance
  • On or after January 1, 2020, either:
    • You were made redundant
    • Your working hours were reduced by 20 per cent or more
    • If you are a sole trader, your business was suspended or there was a reduction in your turnover of 20 per cent or more.

Will there be more measures to come?

Parliament has approved an advance of $40 million for the Finance Minister to spend from July 1 without parliament’s approval.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has indicated there many be a need for a third stimulus package down the track.

“We confront an enemy without a flag or a face and we are deploying every weapon in our arsenal to defeat it,” he told parliament.

“We will bounce back as a nation stronger than ever.”

Read more on COVID-19

The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

The current situation around COVID-19 might be making you feel scared or uncertain. It’s okay to feel this way, but it’s also important to learn how to manage feelings of anxiety during this time. To download the free PDF: Anxiety & Coronavirus – How to Manage Feelings of Anxiety click here.

Feature images: Getty.

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