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What the COVID-19 stimulus packages could mean for you

What the COVID-19 stimulus packages could mean for you

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This article was last updated 08.04.20

If you’re feeling the impact of the change and uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus, you’re not alone.

And if your job or work prospects have been affected by COVID-19, you could be able to access financial support from the government.

So far, the government has  announced a range of support measures to help individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

It can feel hard to work out which type of support you could be eligible for. Whether you’ve lost work, or your work has been impacted, two of the biggest kinds of support available include:

  • The JobKeeper Programa wage subsidy scheme where your employer could receive $1,500 a fortnight to pay to you
  • The JobSeeker Payment: which is an income support payment that individuals can apply for. Including the Coronavirus supplement, it works out to about $1,100 a fortnight for many people.

These payments work quite differently. In most cases if you’re eligible, it will be for one payment or the other, not both. Here’s an overview of what they are, how they work, and some other support measures available.

The JobKeeper wage subsidy program

You may be able to receive income from your employer through the JobKeeper program, which is a wage subsidy scheme designed to help businesses cover the cost of wages and keep people in jobs.

If your employer has been impacted by the coronavirus, they may be able to receive $1,500 a fortnight before tax for up to six months, which they must pass on to you.

Your employer will have to be eligible to receive the subsidy – you can find more information on employer eligibility on the Australian Government Business website. If you’re self-employed, you could also be eligible to receive the JobKeeper Payment if you meet the criteria.

As an employee, there’s some eligibility criteria you’ll have to meet too. You’ll have to be:

  • a current employee of an eligible business (including if you’ve been stood down or re-hired)
  • employed by your employer on March 1, 2020
  • a full-time or part-time employee, or a casual employee who’s been with the employer for at least 12 months on March 1, 2020
  • at least 16 years old
  • an Australian citizen, or have a permanent visa or Special Category (Subclass 444) visa.

You can find more information on the eligibility criteria on the Services Australia website.

The JobKeeper Payment is a flat $1,500 a fortnight, before tax – it’s the same for everyone. If you’re eligible for it and normally earn less than $1,500 a fortnight before tax, your employer must pay you the full $1,500 each fortnight. If you normally earn more than $1,500 per fortnight before tax and you’re still working or on paid leave, you should continue to receive your regular income according to your workplace arrangements – the JobKeeper Payment will help your employer by subsidising part of your income.

You can only get the JobKeeper Payment through one employer. If you have more than one employer, you should talk to your main employer about the payment.

You don’t claim this payment yourself – your employer does. They should notify you if they intend to claim the payment on your behalf. Payments are expected in to begin in the first week of May, but will be backdated to March 30.

The JobSeeker Payment and other income support

If you’re not eligible for the JobKeeper Payment, you may be able to access income support, such as the JobSeeker Payment. This used to be called Newstart Allowance, and it’s the main income support payment for people between 22 years old and pension age. There’s also Youth Allowance for people aged 21 and younger.

The government is expanding access to the JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance for job seekers for now, so more people can access financial help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From April 27, you may be eligible for the JobSeeker or Youth Allowance job seeker payments if you're:

  • a permanent employee and you’ve been stood down or lost your job
  • a sole trader, self-employed, casual worker or contract worker and your income has been reduced
  • caring for someone who has COVID-19.

The government has also created the Coronavirus supplement. For six months from April 27, this will add an extra $550 a fortnight to several types of income support payments including the JobSeeker Payment, and Youth Allowance. That means for many people, the JobSeeker Payment will be about $1,100 a fortnight.

The amount you receive from the JobSeeker Payment will depend on your situation, such as if you have children or a partner, plus how much income you’ve been earning. The normal assets testing that happens for the JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance will be waived temporarily, but income testing still applies. The JobSeeker Payment is subject to a partner income test. The government has temporarily increased the amount your partner can earn to around $79,762 a year for you to be eligible for the payment.

The government has also announced $750 Economic Support Payments. If you receive income support such as the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment or Age Pension and are eligible for an income support payment between March 12, 2020 and April 13, 2020, you’ll be paid this $750 automatically – most people will get it by April 17, 2020. Some people will be eligible for a second payment – but not if they get the Coronavirus supplement.

If you’ve never accessed income support before, it can feel hard to know where to start. You will need to use a Centrelink online account through MyGov. This Services Australia page explains the steps you need to take in more detail.

It can also be hard to know which payment you’re eligible for. In most cases, you won’t be able to receive both income support and the JobKeeper Payment.

The government has said if you’ve already applied for the JobSeeker Payment and think you may be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment through your employer, you don’t have to withdraw your JobSeeker claim. But if you do start to get the JobKeeper Payment through your employer, you’ll need to report it to Centrelink as income – which means you might not be eligible for the JobSeeker Payment or other income support payments anymore.

Other financial options available

As a last resort, you may also be able to access your super early. The government has announced that people affected by COVID-19 can apply to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation this financial year, and another $10,000 in the next.

If you run a small business, further support could be available to help you. See what the COVID-19 stimulus packages mean for your business.

Information provided in this article is general only and it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. SEEK provides no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability or completeness. Before taking any course of action related to this article you should make your own inquiries and seek independent advice (including the appropriate legal advice) on whether it is suitable for your circumstances.

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