Updated: 3 April 2020
JobKeeper or JobSeeker?
This is probably the most important question for people who have lost their job, been stood down or have had their work hours significantly reduced due to COVID-19.
For most people who are currently employed, have been “stood down” (that is still employed but not actively working), are sole traders or self employed the best option is probably to have their employer register for JobKeeper Payments. The JobKeeper payment ($1,500 a fortnight) is more than the JobSeeker Payment (between $565.70 and $790.10 a fortnight) plus the Coronavirus Supplement ($550 a fortnight).
The JobKeeper Payment
The JobKeeper Payment is a payment of $1,500 a fortnight, paid by the ATO to an employer and then paid by the employer to eligible employees. Employers can choose to “top-up” and/or pay superannuation on the Job Seeker Payment. It is designed to keep as many people employed as possible during the COVID-19 economic downturn. Both the employer and the employee must be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment.
For a business to be eligible for JobKeeper Payments:
For an employee to be eligible for JobKeeper Payments they must:
The first JobKeeper Payments will made in May but will be back dated to 30 March 2020.
Employers should register their intent to claim JobKeeper Payments with ATO at this website.
Further information on JobKeeper Payments is available here.
If you can’t get your employer to register for the JobKeeper Payment or you aren’t eligible for it you should register for the JobSeeker Payment. This is an existing government benefit paid by CentreLink to eligible individuals. The payment is between $565.70 and $790.10 a fortnight depending on your circumstances.
If you already receive the JobSeeker Payment you will continue to receive it and you will automatically be paid the Coronavirus Supplement. You may also qualify for one or two of the additional payments described below.
If you aren’t already receiving the JobSeeker Payment the good news is more people will now qualify for it including permanent employees, sole traders, self-employed, casual workers, and contractors who have been stood down, have lost their employment or who have their hours reduced (including to zero) who meet the income tests and normal wait periods have been removed.
The normal Asset testing for the Jobseeker Payment will be waived during the period of the Coronavirus supplement. Income testing will still apply but these have been modified. Details about the income tests are available here.
The one week Ordinary Waiting Period, Liquid Assets test Waiting Period (which usually means you need to use your savings before you can claim the benefit), Seasonal Worker Preclusion Period and Newly Arrived residents Waiting Period have all been waived.
You won’t be able to get the JobSeeker Payment while you are receiving employee entitlements such as annual leave or sick leave or income protection benefits.
The Coronavirus Supplement
For the next 6 months the JobSeeker Payment and a number of other Government benefits are being topped-up with the Coronavirus Supplement which is $550 a fortnight.
Eligible recipients of the new Coronavirus Supplement are people receiving:
Coronavirus Supplement payments will be made from 27 April 2020 but they will be backdated.
Additional Support Payments
The Government is also making two additional support payments of $750 each to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession cardholders.
The two support payments will be paid automatically from 31 March 2020 and 13 July 2020. Eligible recipients of the two support payments include recipients of a wide range of existing benefits including Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Austudy, Abstudy, Newstart Allowance, jobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance, Partner Allowance, Sickness Benefit, Special Benefit, Family Tax Benefit, Veteran Service Pension, Veteran Income Support Supplement, Veteran Compensation payments, War Widow and Widower pensions, Veteran Payment, Farm Household Allowance and holders of Pensioner Concession Cards, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders, Veteran Gold Card
If you are already receiving any of these benefits you don’t need to do anything. You can concentrate on staying healthy and other important things and your additional payment should start automatically.
How you claim the benefits
If you are eligible for the JobKeeper Payment your employer must register. You should talk to your employer.
If you are already receiving Jobseeker Payment (and Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance, Sickness Allowance, and Wife Pension), Youth Allowance Jobseeker and Apprentices, Parenting Payment (Partnered and Single), Farm Household Allowance or Special Benefit recipients you don’t need to anything. You will automatically start getting the Coronavirus supplement starting on 27 April 2020.
If you are eligible for the JobSeeker Payment because of COVID-19 you will need to apply.
Given the massive load on the myGov website and the long queues outside Centrelink offices, people are being encouraged to wait before trying to register (though things should improve quite quickly as capacity is added to the web site).
People are also being strongly encouraged to register online if they can – you should avoid spending long periods of time waiting at Centrelink offices with lots of other people
To register for the benefits you need to:
There is now also an option on the Centrelink website to indicate your intent to claim these benefits. If you select this option Centrelink will contact you – which might be a better option if you experience issues with the myGov website.
Job seeking arrangements
Usually people receiving the Jobseeker Payment have an obligation to look for work or build their skills while they are receiving the payment but these obligations have been suspended until at least the 27 April 2020. So people receiving the the Jobseeker Payment will be able to practice social distancing and act as carers for others.
Rent Assistance may be available if you qualify for another benefit and you pay rent. The actual amount paid depends on how much rent you pay over the minimum threshold (which currently starts at $124.60 for singles and is higher for couples and families with dependent children). If you are eligible you will receive $0.75 or every $1.00 of rent over the minimum up to the maximum amount of the benefit which is $93.07 a fortnight for single sharers and higher for couples and families with dependent children.
Stay up to date
As the pandemic develops these arrangements are subject to change. We will do our best to keep this page up to date so we suggest you check back regularly. You can also stay up to date on government websites. The key sites are:
If you are concerned about the financial impact of COVID-19 or you are facing the uncertainty of losing your job or having your income significantly reduced we can help. Sign up to MoneyBrilliant and we will give you access to a host of tools and features to help you organise your finances and make better decisions about your money. We’ll also give you tailored insights about the financial assistance available from governments and businesses to help you face the economic and financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This summary has been prepared by MoneyBrilliant Pty Ltd (AFSL 492711, ACL 493068). The information in this summary is of a factual nature only. We are not suggesting or recommending that you take any particular course of action in relation to any financial product or service. It does not take into account your personal circumstances or objectives. If you need financial advice or taxation advice you should seek advice from a licensed financial adviser or tax agent. You may also be able to access additional information from the websites of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and the relevant product providers.
Peter is the CEO of MoneyBrilliant. He has over 20 years experience in banking, insurance and accounting. Peter has three sons, ranging in age from 16 to 3, is a sport and fitness fanatic and a volunteer firefighter. He is passionate about improving people's lives through making financial services more accessible.