COVID-19 and Australia’s social security system
Australia’s social security system has a number of existing features to support people in the context of COVID-19.
At present, Australians who are unable to attend work because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19, who are in isolation or who are caring for sick children may qualify for Sickness Allowance if they do not have any employer leave entitlements and they meet general eligibility requirements in respect to income and asset tests.
The Morrison Government has decided to remove the need for a medical certificate for those people claiming Sickness Allowance because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Current income support recipients who cannot meet mutual obligation requirements due to isolation should call Services Australia 132 850 and can be granted a Major Personal Crisis exemption for 14 days without having to provide evidence such as a medical certificate.
Students receiving Youth Allowance (student) or other study related payments who are in Australia but unable to study due to COVID-19 remain eligible for their payments but must contact Services Australia 132 490 to advise of the circumstances.
In addition, the Morrison Government has decided to waive the one-week Ordinary Waiting Period for certain payments for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, initially for a three month period to 12 June 2020.
This means people eligible for social security during the impact of COVID-19 will have access to payments one week sooner in recognition of the need to support people quickly.
From 20 March this year, the JobSeeker Payment will progressively combine seven payments into one, replacing Newstart Allowance as the main payment for working-age unemployed people.
The JobSeeker Payment was announced in the 2017-18 Budget and is legislated to take effect from 20 March,2020.
Eligibility for access to JobSeeker Payment aligns with existing eligibility for Sickness Allowance. People who are unable to work due to COVID-19, who would have qualified for Sickness Allowance will be able to qualify for JobSeeker Payment under the same rules and at the same rate of payment from 20 March 2020.
People will not be required to present a medical certificate to claim JobSeeker Payment if they are affected by COVID-19 and temporarily unable to work.
Existing eligibility requirements for Newstart Allowance, Sickness Allowance and JobSeeker Payment, in respect of income and asset tests and residency requirements still apply. Other waiting periods may apply, however, these generally only affect people who have additional means to support themselves.
JobSeeker Payment will better accommodate individual circumstances, meaning people will not need to claim a new payment if they become unemployed while they are sick.
Current Newstart recipients will automatically transfer to JobSeeker Payment while other current payment recipients impacted by the change have been contacted by Services Australia to assist with the transition.
The main rates of JobSeeker Payment will be $574.50 a fortnight for singles representing an increase of $6.70 a fortnight for singles when compared to the previous rates of Newstart Allowance when including Energy Supplement.
For more information on JobSeeker Payment, go to www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/jobseeker-payment.