JobSeeker and COVID-19

This page provides information about JobSeeker Payment and the temporary arrangements in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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?

How has JobSeeker Payment changed because of COVID-19?

How can I claim the new JobSeeker Payment?

When will I get my JobSeeker Payment?

How is JobSeeker Payment paid?

What is the Coronavirus Supplement?

What are Economic Support Payments?

What if my claim is rejected or I have a problem getting my payment?

How can I get help with all this?

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Looking for information about other payments?

For information about other types of Centrelink payments related to COVID-19, including Crisis Payment, read this factsheet from our peak organisation, Economic Justice Australia: Factsheet: Covid-19 and Centrelink

For a step-by-step guide about how to claim a Centrelink payment during coronavirus (COVID-19), read this factsheet: Factsheet: Claiming Centrelink during Covid-19


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What is JobSeeker Payment?

JobSeeker Payment is a new payment that has replaced a number of social security payments including Newstart Allowance and Sickness Allowance. The Government has made some temporary changes to JobSeeker Payment for six months (until late September/early October 2020) in response to COVID-19.

How has JobSeeker Payment changed because of COVID-19?

Eligibility criteria

Under the temporary COVID-19 arrangements, you may be eligible for JobSeeker Payment if you are 22 years or older, meet residence criteria, and:

  • have lost employment as a permanent employee
  • 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 because you were required to care for someone who has been affected by COVID-19

Coronavirus Supplement

People on JobSeeker Payment will be paid the Coronavirus Supplement, which is an additional $550/fortnight. For more information see the Services Australia webpage.

Assets test

Assets will not be taken into account for JobSeeker Payment until September 2020. This means you can get JobSeeker Payment even if you or your partner have a lot of assets (the things you own, like your car and the money you have in the bank).

Income test

There are a number of different income tests which may apply depending on your circumstances. For more information see the Services Australia webpage. Note: If you have a partner who is not on a pension, the partner income test is far more generous than usual. 

Waiting periods

Some of the waiting periods that normally apply to JobSeeker Payment have been waived during the COVID-19 arrangements, 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).

When the COVID-19 arrangements cease in September/October 2020, people will be required to serve any remaining waiting period. 

Mutual obligations

'Mutual obligations' describes things you must normally do to keep your social security payment. These include things like looking for work, undertaking specific activities, going to appointments, and Work for the Dole. Mutual obligation requirements have been lifted until 1 June 2020. 

There are other changes that are likely to remain in place beyond 22 May while COVID-19 social distancing measures are in effect. These include:

  • Job seekers will be able to complete activities such as online training, creating job plans, writing a CV and preparing job applications online
  • Job seekers will have the option to request that meetings with their job service providers take place over the phone/online
  • Job Plans will be adjusted to a default requirement of four job searches a month (or less)
  • Work for the Dole and other activities delivered in group settings that cannot be delivered online will be suspended until further notice.
  • Current income support recipients who cannot meet mutual obligation requirements can be granted a Major Personal Crisis exemption without having to provide evidence such as a medical certificate.
  • Students receiving Youth Allowance (student) or other study related payments who are unable to attend studies due to COVID-19 would be taken to have a reasonable excuse for not meeting study activity requirements for their payments.

For more information, read this factsheet: Factsheet: COVID-19 and Centrelink

Other requirements

Some other requirements for JobSeeker Payment have also been temporarily removed. When claiming JobSeeker Payment, you will usually 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 can I claim the new 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 I get my JobSeeker Payment?

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

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

  • If you lodged your ‘intent to claim’ between 23 and 29 March 2020, and you then lodged your full claim by 19 April 2020, your payment should be backdated to 23 March 2020

  • If you lodged your ‘intent to claim’ after 29 March 2020, and you lodged your claim less than 14 days after that, your payment should be backdated to the date you lodged your ‘intent to claim’.

If you are receiving leave entitlements from your employer, it can affect the date that JobSeeker Payment can start. Still, you should register your intent to claim JobSeeker as soon as possible so that it will start as soon as your leave entitlements finish. You can register on this page. Once you are receiving JobSeeker Payment, you will automatically get the fortnightly Coronavirus Supplement.

How is JobSeeker Payment paid?

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

 

What is the Coronavirus Supplement?

The Coronavirus Supplement is a payment of $550/fortnight that will be paid from late April until late September. Technically it started from 27 April 2020 but the first Coronavirus Supplement payment arrives with the first JobSeeker Payment that is paid after 27 April. That means some people have had to wait up to 2 weeks for the first Coronavirus Supplement.

 

What are Economic Support Payments?

The Government has announced two Economic Support Payments:

The First Economic Support Payment ($750) was payable to all people entitled to particular social security payments between 12 March and 13 April 2020: ABSTUDY (Living Allowance), Age Pension, Austudy, Bereavement Allowance, Carer Allowance, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension, JobSeeker Payment, Parenting Payment, Partner Allowance, Special Benefit, Widow B Pension, Wife Pension and Youth Allowance.

Payment of the first Economic Support Payment was due on 17 April 2020 for people who were receiving their regular social security payment on that date. For those with claims that had/have not been processed, the first Economic Support Payment will arrive with your new payment after your claim is granted.

The Second Economic Support Payment ($750) will not be paid to all people who received the first payment. People who are receiving the fortnightly Coronavirus Supplement ($550/fortnight) will not receive the second Economic Support Payment. That means it will be paid to people on Age Pension, Carer Allowance, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension, Widow B Pension and Wife Pension. It will not be paid to people on ABSTUDY (Living Allowance), Austudy, JobSeeker Payment, Partner Allowance, Special Benefit or Youth Allowance.

The Second Economic Support Payment will be paid in July 2020.

 

What if my claim is rejected or I have a problem getting my payment?

If your claim is rejected, you have the right to appeal! Appeals are often successful.

Although it’s not necessary, it’s a good idea to get legal advice before you appeal to give you the best chance of success, so give Welfare Rights Centre a call for some free advice:

Call us on: 02 9211 5300 (Sydney) or 1800 226 028 (toll-free from outside Sydney)

Beginning the process of an appeal is straightforward. The first step usually involves asking Centrelink to explain the decision, which will give you the chance to correct a misunderstanding or provide them with more information.

If you don’t agree with Centrelink’s explanation, you can tell Centrelink you want the decision reviewed. That will trigger a review of the decision by a Centrelink Authorised Review Officer.

You can appeal by:

  • Phoning or visiting Centrelink and telling them you want the decision reviewed. If you do so, you should make a note of the date for your own records

  • Completing a form called ‘Review of Decision’ here and returning it to Centrelink.

It is important to appeal within 13 weeks of receiving the original decision in writing because otherwise you may not receive back payment. If you are still unsuccessful, you can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which is independent of Centrelink.

For more information read this factsheet: Factsheet: Appealing a Centrelink Decision

 

How can I get help with all this?

Welfare Rights Centre can provide free legal advice and assistance. To get in touch with Welfare Rights Centre, call us on:

02 9211 5300 (Sydney)

1800 226 028 (toll-free from outside Sydney)

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm
  • Tuesday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm
  • Wednesday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm

To read about our legal services on this page, click here.

If you live in another state, your local specialist community legal centre may be able to help. To find your nearest community legal centre, click here:

Help spread the word! 

If you know someone who has had a JobSeeker Payment claim or another social security claim rejected, our community legal specialists can help. Please share this page on social media:

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