JobSeeker and COVID-19

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This page provides information about JobSeeker Payment and the temporary arrangements in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes changes announced by the Government that will apply until 31 December 2020.

It also covers what to do if you have a JobSeeker Payment claim rejected.

Use the links below to jump to the information you need:

What is JobSeeker Payment?

What are the temporary changes to JobSeeker Payment under the COVID-19 arrangements?

How to claim JobSeeker Payment?

When will payments commence?

How is JobSeeker Payment paid?

What are the Economic Support Payments?

Reviews and Appeals

Legal help

What is JobSeeker Payment?

JobSeeker Payment is the name of the payment that was previously called Newstart Allowance. JobSeeker Payment also incorporates what was previously called Sickness Allowance.

What are the temporary changes to JobSeeker Payment under the COVID-19 arrangements?

Eligibility criteria

Under the temporary arrangements a person who is 22 years or over may be eligible for JobSeeker Payment if they meet the residence eligibility criteria and they:

  • have been stood down without pay as a permanent employee
  • have lost income as a sole trader, self-employed person, casual worker or contract worker or
  • have lost income due to being required to care for someone who is affected by COVID-19.

Coronavirus supplement

People on JobSeeker Payment receive the Coronavirus Supplement, a temporary payment made under the Government’s special arrangements to deal with the public health crisis. The Coronavirus Supplement is paid into recipients’ bank accounts in addition to their fortnightly JobSeeker Payment entitlement. The Coronavirus Supplement is currently $550 per fortnight. From 25 September the Supplement will reduce to $250 per fortnight.

Income test

The income test free area for JobSeeker Payment is currently $106 per fortnight for personal income. The income test free area for Youth Allowance (job seeker) for personal income is $143 per fortnight. This means that personal income under these amounts will not affect the rate of payment. From 25 September 2020 the income test free area will increase to $300 per fortnight for both JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (job seeker), with payment reducing by 60 cents for every dollar of personal earnings over $300.

Under the temporary partner income test in place until 24 September a person whose personal income is less than $194 per fortnight will have an income-tested entitlement to JobSeeker Payment if their partner is not on a pension and their partner’s income is less than $3,068.80 per fortnight. Changes to the partner income test from 25 September 2020 mean that this cut-out will increase.

Assets test

Until 24 September 2020 assets will not be taken into account for JobSeeker Payment. The assets test for JobSeeker Payment will be reintroduced from 25 September 2020 – the same assets test that applied for Newstart Allowance before it was replaced with JobSeeker Payment.

Waiting periods

Some of the waiting periods that would normally apply to JobSeeker Payment have been waived under the special COVID-19 arrangements in place until 24 September, including:

  • The one-week Ordinary Waiting Period
  • The Liquid Asset Test Waiting Period
  • The Seasonal Work Preclusion Period
  • The Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period (NARWP).

From 25 September until 31 December 2020 waiver will continue for:

  • The one-week Ordinary Waiting Period
  • The Seasonal Work Preclusion Period
  • The Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period (NARWP).

The Liquid Assets Waiting Period will be reintroduced for new JobSeeker Payment claims made on or after 25 September 2020.

Mutual obligations

Mutual obligation requirements for JobSeeker Payment recipients are being gradually increased under the special COVID-19 arrangements. Changes introduced from From 4 August 2020, except for people living in Victoria, mean that JobSeeker Payment recipients must be willing to accept any offer of suitable paid work. Penalties will apply if a recipient refuses a suitable job offer without a reasonable excuse. JobSeeker Payment recipients who have an Employment Service Provider or who are with the Online Employment Service will be required to undertake at least four job searches each month, unless required to undertake training or other activities. Job seekers will not be be penalised or have their payment suspended for failing to meet job search requirements. Penalties will only apply for refusing a suitable job without a reasonable excuse. Special circumstances exemptions from mutual obligations will continue to be available. Sole traders and people who are self-employed will continue to be exempt from mutual obligation requirements to enable businesses to be re-established.

Other requirements for JobSeeker Payment that have been temporarily removed

To claim JobSeeker Payment, people currently do not need to

  • provide an Employment Separation Certificate, proof of rental arrangements or verification of relationship status
  • undertake the JobSeeker Classification Instrument – the questionnaire used to assess whether people who have recently left jobs are ‘job ready’ or need additional support
  • make an appointment with an employment service provider.

How to claim JobSeeker Payment?

For step by step instructions about how to claim Centrelink payments during the COVID-19 pandemic, read this factsheet:

Factsheet: Claiming Centrelink during Coronavirus

When will payments commence?

Although it may take some time for Centrelink to process a JobSeeker Payment claim, payment should date back to the date the ‘intention to claim’ was lodged (online, over the phone or in person) – as long the person lodged their claim within 14 days of lodging the intention to claim.

Currently, processing delays mean it may take some weeks to receive payment but:

  • If the person lodged their ‘intention to claim’ between 23 and 29 March 2020, and they then lodged their full claim by 19 April 2020, payment should be backdated to 23 March 2020
  • If the person lodged their ‘intention to claim’ after 29 March 2020, and they lodged your claim within 14 days, their payment should be backdated to the date they lodged their ‘intention to claim’.

Leave entitlements can affect the date from which payment can be made. It is important to register an intention to claim JobSeeker Payment as soon as possible, even if leave entitlements are being received, so that JobSeeker Payment can commence when they finish. You can register via this page. Once a claimant is receiving JobSeeker Payment, they will automatically receive the fortnightly Coronavirus Supplement.

How is JobSeeker Payment paid?

JobSeeker Payment is paid fortnightly into the recipient’s bank account. It is paid for the fortnight that has just passed. It is not paid in advance.

What are Economic Support Payments?

The First Economic Support Payment ($750): The first Economic Support Payment was paid to people who were entitled to JobSeeker Payment between 12 March and 13 April 2020. For people with JobSeeker claims that had/have not been processed, the first Economic Support Payment will be paid when the claim is granted.

The Second Economic Support Payment ($750), made in July, is not payable to people receiving the Coronavirus Supplement. This means that the second payment is not payable to JobSeeker Payment recipients.

Reviews and Appeals

If a person’s claim is rejected, they have the right to have the decision reviewed by an Authorised Review officer, and then the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Reviews and appeals are often successful. Although it’s not necessary, it’s a good idea to get legal advice before appealing.

To seek a review:

  • Phone or visit Centrelink, and/or
  • Complete a form called ‘Review of Decision’ and returning it to Centrelink. It is important to appeal within 13 weeks of receiving the original decision in writing to ensure back payment. For more information read this factsheet:

Factsheet: Appealing a Centrelink Decision

Legal help

If you need legal support, your local specialist community legal centre may be able to help. Find your nearest community legal centre.