This page last updated on 11/09/2020

More information

What’s changed

From 27 April 2020 (for six months) until 24 September 2020:

  • Coronavirus supplement of $550 per fortnight

  • Expanded access for sole traders, people stood down, self-employed, casual workers

  • Asset test is waived

  • Waiting periods including ordinary, liquid asset test and newly arrived residents have been waived (already applies before 27 April 2020)

  • Partner income test will be $3,068.80 per fortnight gross (or $79,762.80 per fortnight gross), as long as the recipient has a personal income of less than $104 per fortnight.

  • JobSeeker recipients eligible between 12 March 2020 and 13 April 2020 received the first $750 economic support payment. People receiving the Coronavirus Supplement were not eligible to receive the second economic support payment.

  • Mutual obligations were suspended in March 2020 and are gradually being reintroduced from 4 August 2020. JobSeekers in Victoria should continue to meet the limited requirements introduced on 9 June until further notice.

  • The application process has been streamlined

  • Removal of requirements for an employment separation certificate, proof of rental arrangements, verification of relationship status and the requirement to attend an employment service provider before being paid.

From 25 September 2020, access to payments will change as follows:

  • The fortnightly coronavirus supplement of $550 will drop to $250 a fortnight.
  • The income free area for JobSeeker will increase to $300 per fortnight, which means people can earn more, but still receive the maximum payment rates. If you earn more than $300 per fortnight, your payment will be reduced by 60c for each dollar over this amount.
  • the Assets Test will be reinstated for both existing and new recipients
  • the Liquid Assets Test Waiting Period will be reinstated
  • the Ordinary Waiting Period, Seasonal Work Preclusion Period and the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period will continue to be waived until 31 December 2020
  • Mutual Obligation requirements are gradually being reintroduced from 9 June 2020
  • Partner Income test will increase to $3,086.11 per fortnight. Or $80,238.89 per annum, if you have no personal income.

What do the changes mean?

  • Many people have now applied for the JobSeeker Payment as a consequence of changes made to deal with the pandemic. More people may still become unemployed.
  • The Coronavirus supplement will have different repercussions depending on the client:
    • For people who have been on Centrelink for some time, the increased income may mean an opportunity to repay debts and build a savings buffer.
    • For people who have just lost their job, the JobSeeker payment may still be completely inadequate to meet their basic living expenses and debts.
  • Some people will qualify for the JobKeeper Payment. See separate information on the JobKeeper Payment.
  • As people can withdraw from a Centrelink claim at any time, it is recommended that if a client is unemployed or has reduced hours, they should consider applying for the JobSeeker Payment. If they are later successful for the JobKeeper Payment the claim for the JobSeeker Payment can be withdrawn.
  • There will be a lot of people who are unfamiliar with the Centrelink processes. Take care to manage expectations by explaining how Centrelink works, the need to provide evidence as required, and waiting times on the phone etc.

What do you do differently?

  • Client may need emergency assistance and support for food, rent and utilities while waiting for Centrelink payments to commence
  • You will need information about the new processes to apply for the JobSeeker Payment and the new accessibility requirements.
  • Clients should be encouraged to check eligibility for a payment
  • There may be an opportunity to settle debts for a reduced lump sum with the first economic support payment and/or while receiving the coronavirus supplement.
  • There may also be an opportunity for some clients to build a saving buffer and make plans for regular savings.
  • Entering into a long term repayment arrangement with affordability based on the client receiving the coronavirus supplement will be problematic when it is reduced or ceases to be paid by the government.
  • Many clients will need to prioritise payments and debts and make repayment arrangements that are affordable and can be reviewed as the client’s circumstances change

Eligibility for JobSeeker

The main eligibility rules to meet are:

  • Aged between 22 and the Age Pension Age. If under 21 apply for JobSeeker for Youth. If over the Age Pension Age and now unemployed consider applying for the Age Pension.
  • Income and assets are under the test limits
    • income test: If single earn less than $1086.50 gross per fortnight. If partnered, earn less than $993.50 gross per fortnight and their partner earns less than $3086.80 gross per fortnight.
    • Assets test: the assets test waiver ends 24 September 2020. If single and a non-homeowner $268,000 limit or $482,000 for non-homeowner.
  • Meet residence rules and be an Australian resident, newly arrived resident or a Special Category Visa
  • Meet temporary eligibility rules during coronavirus e.g. a sole trader, self-employed, a casual or contract worker and regular income has reduced.

Applying for JobSeeker

The usual process to apply for JobSeeker (for the first time) involves:

  • Visiting a Centrelink office with the necessary identification
  • At that time the person’s identity is verified, they are given a Centrelink Reference Number and a code to link Centrelink to MyGov.
  • If the person has not set up MyGov then they get instructions on how to do so (go to MyGov and select create an account).
  • People who need extra assistance get an appointment

For new applicants (never applied for Centrelink before) there is an accelerated process in the pandemic. People are encouraged to not visit a Centrelink office and instead go online. The process is:

Step 1: Login to MyGov and click register an intention to claim. Confirm personal details can be shared with Centrelink, their financial circumstances are affected by the coronavirus and an intention to claim.

Step 2: Call Centrelink to verify identity, obtain a Centrelink Reference Number and a linking code (to link MyGov to Centrelink).

Step 3: Complete an online application for JobSeeker on Centrelink.

Note 1: There is no need for an employment separation certificate, proof of rental arrangements, bank statements or verification of relationship status.

Note 2: The online process involves a declaration for all applicants on identity, residency status, income and that:

  1. They have been made redundant, stood down or their hours reduced (including to zero) as a result of the coronavirus
  2. For sole traders and the self employed that business has been suspended or had turnover reduced significantly

Step 4: Check MyGov for any additional evidence or actions required. Notifications by email or SMS (as the applicant elected in the application) should accompany any changes.

Step 5: If your client is rejected or on hold get advice about the appeal process which starts with an authorised review officer (see resources below).

Ongoing reporting and obligations

Mutual obligations were suspended in March due to Covid-19. They will be gradually reintroduced from 4th August 2020.

These requirements don’t apply to people Victoria until further notice.

Job seekers in Victoria should continue to meet the limited requirements introduced on 9 June. This means they should engage with their employment services provider online or over the phone. No penalties or suspensions will apply if they can’t.

They will also still need to:

  • tell Services Australia about changes to their circumstances

  • report their income

In all other states, from 4 August 2020, recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance for job seekers, Parenting Payment, Special Benefit will need to do all of these:

  • complete the Job Seeker Snapshot questionnaire

  • agree to a Job Plan

  • go to appointments, either online or over the phone, with their employment services provider

  • the tasks on their online employment services dashboard, if they don’t have a provider

  • the activities in their Job Plan if it is safe to do so, including job searches

  • accept any offer of suitable paid work.

They will also still need to:

  • tell Services Australia about changes to their circumstances
  • report their income.

They may have different mutual obligation requirements if they are either:

  • a principal carer

  • aged 55 or over.

When penalties apply:

From 4 August, the payment may be cancelled if they refuse suitable work without a reasonable excuse. This includes:

  • accepting a suitable job offer

  • starting a job they have accepted.

If the payment is cancelled for refusing suitable work, the client won’t be able to claim again for at least 4 weeks.

This doesn’t apply if they are in the Community Development Program or ParentsNext.

If their payment is cancelled, it won’t affect their family payments.

Customers should maintain contact with their employment service providers as they are there to support and explain what they need to do to make sure they keep getting their payment. They can also give customers advice about training, upskilling and employment opportunities.

Customers can also log onto their jobactive dashboard regularly to ensure they are aware of the opportunities available to them.

If a customer can’t meet their requirements for other reasons, they should talk to their employment service provider as a first point of contact as they are offering support via telephone. If, however, a customer has an online or digital employment services, or they can’t contact their provider, customers can call the National Customer Service Line on 1800 805 260.

Further information can be on the Services Australia website.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for financial counsellors only. It is general information only. Financial counsellors must still tailor advice to their client’s individual circumstances. 

Copyright © 2020 Financial Counselling Australia. All rights reserved.​

FCA sincerely thanks Kat Lane. Liz Minter and Melinda Rene for their outstanding work in putting this site together.