Lost your job due to the coronavirus? Here’s where to get help
There are lots of ways to get financial support if you've lost your job or are suddenly out of work.
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Losing your job is scary, there's no doubt about it. But know that you're not alone, and there is support out there for you. We've put together a list of ways you can get help, in the hope it'll make these tough times a little easier.
Quick summary: What help can I get?
- The Australian Government announced on 30 March 2020 that you may be eligible for payments of $1,500 from your employer if you've lost out on shifts or lost your job. Before applying for Centrelink, call your employer and ask if you're eligible for their JobKeeper payment, and read our JobKeeper guide.
- This is a payment that will come through your workplace, not from Centrelink. It's money given to businesses from the government to incentivise them to keep their employees.
- JobKeeper is available for retrenched employees if their employer puts them back on the books.
- If you're not eligible for JobKeeper, there are two payments you might be eligible for: the JobSeeker payment and the Coronavirus Supplement.
- The JobSeeker payment - formerly known as Newstart - is for those who are unemployed or do not have enough work.
- For most people, the JobSeeker payments equal $565.70/fortnight, but depending on cirumstances can rise to $790.10/fortnight.
- Waiting periods and assets tests has been waived (which means you can still have savings). You'll also only have to apply for four jobs per month.
- The Coronavirus Supplement is a temporary, additional top-up payment of $550 a fortnight for people receiving eligible support payments. This includes JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy, Abstudy, Sickness Allowance, Parenting Payment and Farm Household Allowance. It will be applied automatically if you're eligible. See the Services Australia news update from 25 March 2020 for further details.
- The Coronavirus Supplement begun on April 27 and will be available for at least 6 months.
- That means that if you've lost your job as a result of coronavirus, you might be eligible for payments of $1100 a fortnight through both of these payments.
- You can also take out up to $10,000 from your superannuation, tax-free. Make sure you read up on this and understand what this means for your super if you go ahead with it.
Apply for the JobSeeker payment from the Australian government
From 20 March 2020, the Services Australia JobSeeker payment is being introduced as the main payment for working-age Australians without a job, who are currently looking for work. From 22 March 2020, the government expanded the eligibility criteria of people who can apply for the JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance to include sole traders and self-employed people, as well as people caring for someone who is infected with coronavirus, or in isolation.
In addition, the government has temporarily increased the JobSeeker allowance, effective 27 April 2020. This means that both new and existing income support recipients will receive a temporary Coronavirus Supplement of $550 each fortnight for six months, in addition to their usual payment. The standard one-week waiting period has been waived and the step-be-step sign-up process streamlined.
From 25 March 2020, Services Australia has waived asset testing for 6 months (except for those requesting Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit). It has also waived liquid asset testing, the waiting period for newly arrived residents and the seasonal work preclusion period. Note that income testing still applies, so you will need to include details of any forms of income you may be getting when you apply.
JobSeeker payment rates
|Your situation||Your maximum fortnightly payment|
|Single, no children||$565.70|
|Single, with a dependent child or children||$612.00|
|Single, aged 60 or over, after 9 continuous months on payment||$612.00|
|Family situation||Payment reduces to nil once your income reaches this amount per fortnight|
|Single with no children.||$1,086.50|
|Single, 60 years of age or older and have been receiving payment for at least 9 months continuously.||$1,175.17|
|Single, principal carer, with a dependent child.||$1,673.25|
|single principal carer of a dependent child, granted an exemption from mutual obligation requirements||$2,124.75|
|Single, 60 years of age or older, and a principal carer with a dependent child. You must have been getting payment for at least 9 months continuously.||$1,673.25|
|Single, with a dependent child but not the principal carer.||$1,164.84|
From 27 April 2020: $3,068.80 for your partner's income when you have no income.
What if I'm getting my annual leave paid out?
Unfortunately, if you're getting annual leave or sick leave paid out, you will not be eligible for any of the above welfare payments. When your annual or sick leave stops or runs out, you will then be able to apply.
Am I eligible for support if I have savings?
Yes. Normally, applicants for welfare with savings over a certain threshold are subject to an additional waiting period before being able to access payments, known as the Liquid Assets Waiting Period. However, the government is waiving this waiting period from the 27 April 2020 for new welfare applicants.
Am I eligible if my partner is still working?
This will depend on your joint income. Services Australia has different criteria for evaluating relationships and welfare payments, for example for JobSeeker payments. If your partner earns over a certain threshold fortnightly, this will reduce the payments you receive, potentially down to nothing if their income is high enough.
On 30 March, the threshold for partner income testing was raised to $79,600, making it easier for couples to access JobSeeker payments if one partner loses their job.
See if you're eligible for a payment from the government's stimulus package
The government is offering two separate $750 cash payments to benefit recipients, including people receiving JobSeeker, Family Tax Benefit, a pension or social security payment, as well as veterans and those with concession cards.
The first payment was applied automatically to those eligible from 31 March 2020, with the majority of payments sent out by mid-April. The second payment will be made from 13 July 2020, but will not apply to those that are eligible for the Coronavirus Supplement.
If you're out of a job because you're sick or caring for someone who is sick
If you're out of work because you caught COVID-19, have to self-isolate, or need to care for a loved one, there are ways to get financial support.
The government has waived the one-week wait time for tax-payer funded JobSeeker payments (which replaces the Sickness Allowance as of 20 March 2020) so you can access that as soon as you're off work.
If you're a casual employee, independent contractor or gig economy worker, you might not be entitled to sick leave. However, a number of retailers are now offering paid leave to casual workers in Australia, including Officeworks, Target, Kmart and Woolworths.
As part of WA's recent stimulus package, public sector employees and casual workers in WA will get access to 20 days of sick leave to encourage sick people to stay home. The leave will apply to workers who have coronavirus, need to self-isolate, care for family or are unable to attend work due to the virus.
You could access up to $20,000, tax-free, from your super
If you're financially impacted by coronavirus, you can access up to $10,000 of your superannuation, from 20 April until 1 July 2020, and a further $10,000 from July until 24 September 2020. In order to be eligible for early release of funds from your super, you must be one or more of the following:
- Eligible for a job seeker payment, youth allowance, parenting payment, special benefit or farm household allowance.
- Been made redundant or had your working hours reduced by 20% or more after 1 January 2020.
- For sole traders, if your business has been suspended or your turnover was reduced by 20% or more.
If you're eligible to access your superannuation early, you will not need to pay tax on the amount released, nor will this impact your Centrelink or Veterans' Affairs payments. You can apply directly to the ATO through the myGov website, as early as mid-April 2020. However, there are several factors to consider before you access your super early.
Make a workers compensation claim
If you catch coronavirus (COVID-19) as a result of your work, you may be entitled to workers compensation. While you'll need to prove that your job played a significant role in you falling sick, it could help ease the financial burden.
This may be difficult for some jobs but if you can demonstrate a clear link, there is a chance you could receive financial help.
For example, your job may have involved travel to an area with a known outbreak, you might have been forced to interact with people who contracted the coronavirus, or you may have held responsibilities which contravened Department of Health recommendations.
Each claim will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but there is certainly a possibility that workers compensation could help many impacted workers.
Consider quick income methods to keep you afloat
There are side hustle options out there that can allow you to make money, without a lot of qualifications. If you're concerned about being in contact with people, focus on jobs you can do online for example.
- Doing surveys for marketing companies
- User testing on websites.
- Writing content for businesses
- Consider using apps to track your money and maximise savings.
Consider a low-interest loan
Rather than rush to a costly pay-day lender, there are a range of low-interest loans available on the market.
There is even a no interest loan scheme (NILs), which is managed by Good Shepherd Microfinance, a community organisation. You can apply for a loan of between $300 and $1,200 for 12-18 months - giving you time to get back on your feet as coronavirus concerns die down.
Contact your insurer
If you're worried about your outgoings and want to limit your spending for a while, your insurer could help. Insurance companies will often pause premiums in times of financial hardship, without enforcing a break in cover. Give your insurer the heads up if you think you might be out of a job soon, and see if there's financial assistance available.
If you have income protection insurance
You may be able to claim on your income protection insurance if you meet your policy's requirements – for example, holding it for a certain period or being out of work for a certain length of time.
Contact your insurance company immediately to find out if you would be covered in the event you lost your job. The insurer will be able to walk you through the process if you are eligible to make a claim.
Contact your bank or lender
Many lenders will also offer help if you're in financial hardship. You may be able to take a mortgage repayment holiday, or pause payments on your personal loan or credit card.
Contact your utility provider
Call your provider and ask to speak to a hardship officer. The officer may help you work out a plan to pay bills in smaller instalments, or apply emergency utility vouchers. These vouchers can help you meet minimum payments. A number of utility providers are offering payment extension or payment plans to help you get on top of your payments.
If you're struggling mentally
Losing your job and coping with a health crisis aren't easy, but you're not alone. If you're experiencing mental or emotional distress, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. If it is an emergency, please call 000.
Other ways you can save money
Like many people, you may be experiencing some really tough times financially. There are many ways that you can save on you bills and regular expenses and we've made guides to help show you how.
Take a look at your own expenses to see where you can make changes, then use the guides below to find the best ways to put your savings plan into action.
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