Page last updated on 9/12/2020

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Centrelink income support

Since April 2020, the Government temporarily expanded eligibility for income support payments and provided additional income for eligible people on Centrelink.

Coronavirus Supplement

The coronavirus supplement is an additional payment for people receiving JobSeeker Payment (previously called Newstart Allowance), Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Youth Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY Living Allowance, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special benefit.

A person may be eligible to get the supplement if they get at least $1 from any one of the above income support payments.

The supplement was $550 per fortnight until 24 September 2020. From 25 September until 31 December 2020 a payment of $250 per fortnight is available. From 1 January to 31 March 2021 a payment of $150 per fortnight is available.

The Coronavirus Supplement is taxable income. Tax only applies if the person’s taxable income exceeds the tax-free threshold for the financial year. A person can ask Centrelink to set up a tax deduction so that their tax comes out of their payment automatically.

The extension of the supplement from 1 January to 31 March 2021 still needs to be legislated but it is anticipated that it will become law.

Expanded Access

A number of eligibility requirements for Centrelink have been temporarily changed in response to the coronavirus to provide expanded access to those whose income or work situation changes because of covid-19. The big changes are:

  • Access to JobSeeker if you’re a sole trader or self-employed and your business has been suspended, or suffered a reduction in turnover, due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus.

  • Increase of the income free area to $300 per fortnight for JobSeeker until 31 March 2021. This means people on JobSeeker can earn up to $300 per fortnight and still receive the maximum JobSeeker payment.

  • Sole traders and those who are self-employed may not have to meet mutual obligation requirements. They will need to contact Centrelink to check if they are exempt or not.

  • Individuals who only receive JobKeeper are not subject to mutual obligation requirements.

  • Employment income Nil Payment Period has been extended until 16 April 2021. This means a person can have a $0 payment from Centrelink for more than 6 fortnights without them cancelling their payment eligibility. This is particularly important for casual, part-time or contract workers.

Eligibility Changes

From 27 April 2020 until 24 September 2020, the following eligibility requirements were NOT required for anyone eligible to receive the Coronavirus Supplement:

  • the Assets Test

  • the Liquid Assets Waiting Period

  • the Ordinary Waiting Period

  • the Liquid Assets Waiting Period

  • the Seasonal Workers Preclusion Period

  • the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period

  • Mutual obligation or participation requirements (from 24 March until 8 June 2020)

From 25 September 2020 access to payments changed as follows:

  • the Assets Test was reinstated for both existing and new recipients

  • the Liquid Assets Test Waiting Period was reinstated

  • the Ordinary Waiting Period, Seasonal Work Preclusion Period and the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period will continue to be waived until 31 March 2021

  • Mutual obligation gradually reintroduced from 4 August 2020 and from 23 November 2020 became mandatory except in special circumstances.

  • Partner Income test increased to $3,086.11 per fortnight. Or $80,238.89 per annum, if you have no personal income. This increase will continue until 31 March 2021.

Economic Support Payments

There were two separate $750 payments. These were paid automatically to eligible people in April and July 2020. For the 1st payment of $750 people on JobSeeker were eligible for payment. For all other economic support payments, they have been ineligible.

There will be 2 more Economic Support Payments of $250. If a person is eligible for these, they will get a payment of $250 in December 2020 and another $250 in March 2021.

A person is eligible to get the economic support payment if they get one of the following:

  • Age Pension
  • Carer Allowance
  • Carer Payment
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
  • Disability Support Pension
  • Double Orphan Pension
  • Family Tax Benefit
  • Pensioner Concession Card

The person will need to get an eligible payment or have an eligible card on:

  • 27 November 2020 to get the December 2020 payment
  • 26 February 2021 to get the March 2021 payment.

If a person claims Family Tax Benefit for 2020-21 as a lump sum, they will get the economic support payment with their lump sum. This could include the $750 Centrelink paid in July 2020, as well as the 2 x $250 payments. This will be after they have claimed and confirmed their income for the 2020-21 financial year.

If a person is on Income Management or have a Cashless Debit Card, 100% of the economic support payment will go either:

  • onto their Cashless Debit Card, or
  • into their income managed account.

The payments are made automatically. The payments are exempt from taxation and will not count as income for Centrelink purposes. Eligible people can only receive one payment per round.

Support for retirees

  • There is a temporary reduction in superannuation minimum drawdown rates for account-based pensions and similar products. The drawdown rates have been reduced by 50% for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 income years.
  • The Centrelink deeming rates for financial assets has been reduced by 0.50% from 1 May 2020. The upper rate is now 2.25% and the lower rate is now 0.25%. More information about deeming here.