Covid 19: Centrelink Benefits, What Are You Entitled To?
It is a horrible time for many. Some have struggled through the bushfires, then storms with damage to property and now job loss due to Coronavirus (Covid-19). Many businesses have been forced to close due to restrictions and others are open but with limited hours and staff. If you are wondering how you will survive you are not alone.
I, like many, are stressed and concerned about how I will provide for my children, keep a roof over my head and pay my bills.
The government has made many announcements of packages that they have introduced to help people during this time of economic recession. However, with all the different payments and allowances it is hard to understand what is what, if you are eligible for any of it, how to apply and what is needed to fulfil the government’s checklist.
If you are wondering what you can qualify for, wonder no more.
On the Centrelink website, there is a Payment and Service Finder, this online tool assesses what payments and services you might be eligible for. How cool is this and it certainly takes the headache and worry about what you can apply for.
I decided to take the plunge and signed up for the Centrelink Jobseeker payment – Currently still working on supporting documentation to finalise my claim.
Once I remembered my MyGov username (If you do forget you can be emailed your details) I could log in and start the process.
One thing that was a bit weird was that it asked me if I was in Australia, yes, I’m in Australia.
I ticked all the relevant boxes to say I was. Then at multiple points in the application it kept asking me again…. weird seeing that the payments are for Australian citizens.
I was keen to see if I picked a different country, if the online system would show an error but as I needed it to work, I stuck with being in Australia. (Yes, I know no fun really, but at the moment I had to be serious).
You are an Australian resident if you live in Australia and are either:
- An Australian citizen
- A permanent residence visa holder
- A protected Special Category visa (SCV) holder.
Throughout the process, it has asked me for all my financial details and the same for my partner
Why do I need to provide all of this when I urgently need help now!
Centrelink is not looking at any financial assets during this time or at the very least simplifying the reporting to allow people to claim during this crisis. However, you cannot progress your claim until you give them all your financial paperwork! And possibly your first-born child, but this was not listed.
I believe that this is the way the old online forms were and now due to this influx of people needing help you still need to fill out the same questions to claim. Hopefully, they will not look at the financial details and allow people some help during this stressful and worrying time.
Here is a guide for anyone that needs help to access the MyGov Website
You will need to lodge all your claims on the MyGov website. This website is a simple way to log into Centrelink, Medicare, the ATO and more. One website for all the essential things that you need to do with any government department.
If you don’t have a MyGov Account you need to create one and this can be done from the Services Australia Website, all the info, guides and instructions are here (You even get screenshots so it makes the process super easy)
So now you have your login to the MyGov Website you need to do the following:
Step 1: Log into the MyGov Website
Step 2: Click on Payments and Claims on the top menu
Step 3: Then choose “Make a Claim”
Step 4: Pick the area that most suits the claim you are making. For example, the jobseeker would be under “Looking for Work”
Step 5: Fill out all information, upload documents and then complete the claim.
Step 6: You will get a reference number with an estimate of how long it should take to get back to you. Plus, you can always follow up your claim with your reference number too.
The Government has kindly expanded the eligibility and qualification starting from the 25th of March 2020.
Jobseeker Payment and the Youth Allowance for Jobseekers have been expanded to help the following:
- Sole Traders and the Self Employed
- Permanent employees that have lost their jobs
- People caring for someone ill with Coronavirus
So how do you claim, are you eligible and what do you need to do?
The Job Keeper payment helps businesses keep staff to allow them to restart once the crisis is over.
Businesses will be able to claim a fortnightly payment of $1500 per employee from March 30th, 2020.
Your employer will let you know if they are intending on claiming on your behalf. Sole traders can claim as well.
- You need to have been with your employer for 12 months; or
- Employed on the 1st March 2020 and have since lost your job
No need to phone the ATO (Australian Tax Office) all you need to do is to register your interest to claim.
One big question is how much will you get to help you out? If you are single with no kids, you could get $565.70/fortnight or if you have a partner you might get $612.00/fortnight.
The rate depends on your situation; If you are single, have a partner, or have children the amount you get paid will be different (see the table of payments from Services Australia to get an idea of payments).
You can apply if you are:
- An Australian resident aged between 22 – 66 years
- Your income and assets are under the test limits (although these are not being looked at due to COVID-19)
- You are unemployed
- Sick or injured and unable to do your usual work or study
According to Centrelink you can earn up to $104 before they start reducing the payment. This is not a lot to earn to have your allowance cut so just be aware so that you can budget.
To apply for the JobSeeker Allowance simply go to the MyGov Website and start an online claim. You normally hear back within 21 days of lodging your claim. Once submitted you will get a reference number and be able to track how your claim is progressing.
From what I understand this is an additional payment on top of the other payments.
It is a temporary supplement of an extra $550 per fortnight to new and existing eligible income support recipients from 27 April 2020 for six months.
It is taxable so just be aware of this.
The Coronavirus supplement starts on the 27th of April 2020
If you are already getting support payments from Centrelink, you will automatically get this payment.
People who receive the following payments will be able to claim this supplement to help them during this hard time: “JobSeeker Payment, Parenting Payment Partnered, Parenting Payment Single, Sickness Allowance, Farm Household Allowance, Special Benefit, Widow Allowance, Partner Allowance, Youth Allowance for job seekers and students, ABSTUDY and AUSTUDY.”
If you qualify you will get a once off payment of $750.
You don’t need to do anything to get this payment, however the only criteria is that you are already receiving a Centrelink benefit.
“The Government is providing two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. The first Economic Support Payment is for people who are receiving a qualifying payment or card between 12 March 2020 and 13 April 2020 (inclusive). The second Economic Support payment is for people receiving a qualifying payment or card on 10 July 2020 so long as they do not receive the Coronavirus Supplement with their payment.” (https://www.dss.gov.au/about-the-department/coronavirus-covid-19-information-and-support#exp)
JobsHub is an employment website helping people who have been adversely affected by COVID-19 gain employment. Many industries are increasing their demand for workers and these areas include transport, retail, health and care sectors, agriculture, retail, manufacturing, government departments and many others.
I didn’t know about this new job board so make sure to check it out and send in your job applications today!
It is recommended to use phone and online services when you can. According to the Jobsearch.gov.au website you should only attend a Centrelink office if you have a compulsory appointment or no other option.
If you rent and need help, applying for Rental Assistance is recommended.
So, who can qualify for Rental Assistance?
Anyone that pays rent, board or lodging, site, or mooring fees if your house is a boat or caravan or relocatable house, and fees for a retirement village.
How much rental assistance you get depends on your circumstances and how much you normally pay for rent.
Due to COVID-19 you do not need to give any rental documents or paperwork for:
- Special Benefit
- Youth Allowance
- JobSeeker Payment
- Farm Household Allowance
Centrelink will inform you when they need documentation.
How to Apply for Rental Assistance:
Step 1: Log into the MyGov Website
Step 2: Go to “My Details”
Step 3: Check that your accommodation and contacts are all up to date
Step 4: If all correct read the declaration and select “I accept this declaration” then press the submit button.
Step 5: Submit documents – although Centrelink has said that they don’t need them you might have to provide them to make the claim
Step 6: Submit your claim for rental assistance and wait to hear back.
If you are an essential worker or must work the government is offering you free childcare. These spots are not just for families that are essential workers, you might want your kids to have as much normalcy as possible and for them to continue care is essential.
Under the plan the Government will pay 50 per cent of the sectors fee up to the hourly rate and nothing will be charged back to the parents.
The funding starts from the 6th of April 2020 and is based on the number of children who are in the centres care during the fortnight coming into March 2nd, 2020 and this is for kids attending and not attending.
Priority is given to the following: working parents, disadvantaged children, and vulnerable children.
My childcare provider has told me that childcare will be free until the end of June and if you have left due to COVID-19 you are able to get the days back that you had previously booked for your child/children. If you do decide to keep your child or children at home, you can still register back at your centre and this will allow you to keep your spot at no extra cost.
If you urgently need childcare talk to your local childcare provider, or if you have taken your child out due to no money then you are welcome to re-enrol them at the same centre.
If you have any questions about tax and superannuation during this tricky time the ATO has the answers to your questions. If you have a specific question about your own circumstances, please call the ATO on their Emergency Support Infoline – 1800 806 218.
DID YOU KNOW?
Individuals that have reduced work can have their tax withheld for the rest of the financial year. You need to have your tax up to date to take advantage and the last date for lodgement for this variation is 30th of April. So, get in quick for this to give you a helping hand. Make sure to read about what you need to do and how it will impact you for the next financial year on the ATO website.
I hope this list helps you out and gives you an idea of how to apply and what you are entitled.
If you cannot fill out the online claims immediately make sure that you register your interest to claim. This records the date of your intention and according to Centrelink will be back dated to this day that you registered.
Make sure to get your supporting documentation as quickly as you can. I did try and call Centrelink but they have a recorded message and then the phone hung up after they finished telling me their info.
Currently everyone is inundated with people claiming and needing help due to this crisis. You will find that phone wait times at any place that you seek help from will be super long.
Some other things that will help you out:
- Contact your bank to put a hold on your personal loans/mortgages and help with credit cards
- Contact your electricity supplier/gas supplier and see if they can help
- Contact your landlord and see if you can get a reduction on rent or some assistance.
- Help with food for the family and more – AskIzzy is a great site that will help you in your time of need.
Years ago, we were out of work and our family used to send us Coles and Woolies gift cards so that we could buy food. This was before children, so it was a little easier as we just had to fend for ourselves but still a stressful time.
Take care, and make sure to let people know if you need help.
You can always return the favour when you are in a better position, or even with something the other person needs – the barter system is well and truly happening now in the time of coronavirus.