Opinion Coronavirus supplement: your guide to the Australian payments that will go to the extra million on welfare

Australia's unemployment benefits are now middle of the pack, but the package treats two-income couples badly.


Centrelink offices have been struggling under the load of new applications for the Coronavirus Supplement. Image from Shutterstock

On Sunday, the government announced a second coronavirus economic package.

In addition to further one-off payments, the package includes some of the most significant changes to social security payments Australia has ever seen, even if only on a temporary basis.

The amendments passed by parliament on Monday night expand them further.

The package effectively doubles rates of JobSeeker Payment for most people without children.

The maximum rate for a single recipient without dependants is currently A$565.70 per fortnight. Lone parents and those over 60 who have been on benefit for nine months or more currently get more, while members of couples each get somewhat less.

For the six months from April 27 the government will boost it by A$550 per fortnight through a special time-limited Coronavirus Supplement.

Importantly, the extra $550 will go to all current recipients, including those who get less than $565.70 because they have assets or are in part-time work.

It will also go to both existing and new recipients of the Youth Allowance JobSeeker Payment, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.

coronavirus supplement

Image from The Conversation

Thanks to Monday night’s amendments, it will now also go to full-time students receiving Abstudy, Austudy and Youth Allowance for Students.

There are also reports that special payments (and the Coronavirus Supplement) will be made available to temporary visa holders who lose their jobs or suffer significant financial hardship because of the coronavirus.

In addition, the government will no longer need legislation to make further changes to settings, giving the Social Services minister unprecedented powers.

This will give the government the ability to respond flexibly as circumstances change.

One million now, an extra million soon

Roughly 1.3 million existing recipients will receive the supplement, including the 200,000 or so students added on Monday.

To them will be added as many as one million more, who are not currently receiving the JobSeeker or any other payment.

Among them will be permanent employees who are stood down or lose their jobs, sole traders, the self-employed, casual workers and contract workers who find themselves meeting the benefit income tests as a result of the coronavirus.

Included are people required to care for people who are affected by the coronavirus.

Accelerated processing

The assets test for JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker and Parenting Payment will be waived for the duration of the Coronavirus Supplement.

In addition, the normal one week waiting period will be waived, as will the liquid assets test waiting period (which can be up to 13 weeks).

People already in this waiting period will be given immediate access to payments.

It is also important that the Coronavirus Supplement will be paid automatically. Current recipients will receive the full $550 on top of their regular payment without asking for it.

Services Australia is putting on an extra 5,000 staff to deal with the inflow of new claimants and accelerating claim process.

Australia moves up the ranks

These changes will significantly boost the adequacy of working age social security payments in Australia – at least temporarily.

This chart shows where Australia sat in 2019 compared to other members of the Orga