Carers Australia recognises the additional financial strain the ongoing pandemic has had on many carers. COVID-19 has impacted cares’ income, financial support and the costs associated with looking after the person they care for. The information below aims to provide some clarification about the financial supports currently available to carers.
Economic Support Payments for the Carer Payment, Carer Allowance, Aged Pension and Disability Support Pensions
People receiving these payments will get two Economic Support Payments of $250.00 – one in December 2020 and one in March 2021. Economic Support Payment – Services Australia
You should also be aware that a one-off Crisis Payment, which is equal to one week’s JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance for job seekers, is available for current recipients who are isolated at home due to COVID-19 and are in severe hardship.
Coronavirus Supplement for a range of Centrelink payments
In March 2020 the Australian Government introduce a Coronavirus Supplement of $550a fortnight to be automatically added to the following payments.
- JobSeeker Payment
- Partner Allowance
- Widow Allowance
- Youth Allowance
- ABSTUDY Living Allowance
- Parenting Payment
- Farm Household Allowance
- Special Benefit
The amount was cut to $250 in October.
While payment of the Coronavirus Supplement will continue until March 2021, it will be reduced to $150.00 per fortnight on 1 January 2021.
For further information see Coronavirus Supplement – Services Australia.
Jobseeker Mutual Obligation Requirements
Mutual Obligation Requirements are all the job seeking activities someone is required to perform in order to keep receiving the JobSeeker Payment (Newstart), Youth Allowance (other), Parenting Payment Single (when their youngest child turns six) and Special Benefit (Nominated Visa Holders).
Suspension of mutual obligation requirements due to COVID-19 has ceased. From 23 November 2020, mutual obligation requirements became mandatory for all job seekers, including those residing in, or serviced by, an employment services provider in Victoria. Job seekers registered with employment service providers must:
- participate in appointments with their provider (attendance can be by phone/online unless you opt-in to face-to-face servicing)
- review and agree to a Job Plan
- conduct eight job searches, monthly
- participate in activities (participation can be online with the option to opt-in for face-to-face servicing)
- accept suitable paid work.
Penalties apply to anyone who refuses to take a job.
For more information on what you can do to get a personal exemption from meeting the mutual obligation requirements, click here. (Mutual obligation requirements – Services Australia) They include possible exemptions for a range of principal carers.
JobKeeper Payment Changes
The JobKeeper Payment will be extended to 28 March 2021, however current rates will be reduced.
Currently the employers of people covered by JobKeeper receive $1,200 per fortnight toward their employee’s pay where that employee’s total hours are 80 or more, and $750 for those whose hours are less.
However, from 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021 those rates will drop to $1000 per fortnight or $650 per fortnight respectively. Employers cannot pay eligible employees less than the JobKeeper amount per fortnight and keep the difference.
Carers on both Carer Payment and JobKeeper Payment
For a single person on Carer Payment, the income limit is $2,062.60 per fortnight, and for a couple combined it is $3,155.20 per fortnight. If a person exceeds the income limit for a period of 12 weeks, their payment can be cancelled.
The single income limit ($2,062.60) is currently higher than the JobKeeper Payment ($1,200) and will be higher again when it drops to $1000 on 4 January. So, if this was the only income a person on the Carer Payment was receiving, they would not lose their payment due to the additional JobKeeper funding. Only carers who have other income in addition to the JobKeeper Payment, which puts them over the income limit, will have their Carer Payment cancelled if this situation continues for 12 weeks.
Carer Payment recipients who are concerned about the impact JobKeeper will have on them should contact Services Australia to discuss their individual circumstances on 13 27 17. Alternatively a factsheet on the topic can be found here.
Recent changes to the Government’s Coronavirus financial assistance policies do not seem to have changed the capacity of affected individuals to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. Individuals will not need to pay tax on amounts released and the money they withdraw will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments. To apply for early release, the Australian Tax Office website states you must meet one or more of the following:
- you’re unemployed
- you’re eligible for JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance for job seekers, Parenting Payment single or partnered, Special Benefit or Farm Household Allowance
- you became redundant on or after 1 January 2020
- your working hours reduced by 20% or more on or after 1 January 2020
- you’re a sole trader and you had to suspend your business, or your turnover has reduced by 20% or more.
Note: Early release is not available to people on the Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension and the Aged Pension.
Carers Australia recommends that you speak to your Superannuation Fund or a financial advisor if you need further information regarding the impact of these drawdowns on your superannuation.
The Australian Energy Regulator has instructed that all energy companies and networks must:
- waive any disconnection, re-connection and/or contract break fees for small businesses which have gone into hibernation, along with daily supply charges to retailers, during any period of disconnection until at least 31 March 2021
- offer all households and small businesses who indicate they may be in financial stress a payment plan or hardship arrangement
- not disconnect residential or small business customers in financial distress that have made contact with their retailer or responded to communications before 31 March 2021 and potentially beyond
- defer referral of any customer to a debt collection agency for recovery actions, or credit default listing until at least 31 March 2021 and potentially beyond
- minimise the frequency and duration of planned outages for critical works, and providing as much notice as possible to help households and businesses to manage during any outage.
These arrangements will stay in place until 31 March 2021.
They have created a full information page about support for households which can be found here.