In order to support the economy, the government has decided to extend the temporary JobSeeker COVID supplement for a further 3 months until the 31 March 2021, although at a further reduced rate. The temporary supplement was due to end on 31 December 2020, however, with the continued closure of internal State borders, and the lagging economy, the extension will continue the temporary safety net for many individuals.

The supplement was originally introduced in April 2020 at a rate of $550 per fortnight which effectively doubled the rate of certain social security payments (eg JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, and Austudy). Individuals eligible for these payments received the full amount of the $550 coronavirus supplement on top of their payment each fortnight, lifting the total payment to $1,100 for most people.

This initial supplement was legislated to end on 24 September 2020 and was subsequently extended by the government until 31 December 2020 albeit at a reduced rate $250 per fortnight. While the current extension may be welcome news for those unfortunately unemployed or underemployed Australians, the supplement will be further reduced to $150 per fortnight from 1 January 2021 (until 31 March 2021).

The new maximum fortnightly payment from 1 January 2021 to 31 March 2021 for support recipients in the following situations are:

  • Single, no children – $715.70;
  • Single, with dependent child or children – $762.00;
  • Single, 60 or older, after 9 continuous months on payment – $762.00;
  • Partnered – $660.80; and
  • Single principal carer granted exemption from mutual obligations requirements for certain categories – $942.10.

Previous arrangements that increased the income free area of the JobSeeker payment to $300 per fortnight will continue from 1 January 2021 to 31 March 2021, meaning that recipients of various payments can earn income of up to $300 per fortnight and still receive the maximum payment rate. In addition, the partner income test cut-out will be retained at an increased rate of $3,086.11 per fortnight ($80,238.89 per year) allowing recipients to continue accessing various payments. 

Those on various support payments need to also be aware of the return of mutual obligation requirements which apply to recipients in all states and territories except Victoria (at this stage). This includes performing tasks and activities in your Job Plan, attending to tasks in online employment services, and/or attending all appointments with your employment provider either over the phone, online or in person. Failure to fulfil these mutual obligations could lead to suspensions of payment and penalties.

If you’re a former-employee, sole-trader or self-employed individual thinking of applying for the JobSeeker payment, in addition to the above, you should be aware that the assets test now applies as well as the Liquid Assets Waiting Period. The liquid assets waiting period could see those with savings equal to or more than $5,500 (single with no dependants), or $11,000 (partnered or single with dependants) wait between 1 and 13 weeks to receive any payments.