Australia: How job seekers can access $1100 a fortnight due to COVID-19

Updated: Mar 24

The Australian Federal government has doubled unemployment benefits to assist people losing their job. Here’s how you can apply.

Australian job seekers are set to have their payments temporarily doubled, as part of the government’s second stimulus package.


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The JobSeeker Payment, formerly known as Newstart, will be paid at an additional rate of $550 per fortnight to both existing and new recipients during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The coronavirus supplement will provide an additional $550 a fortnight on top of the existing JobSeeker or Newstart payment and will be available for sole traders and casual workers who meet the income test,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

“This means anyone eligible for the maximum JobSeeker payment will now receive more than $1100 a fortnight, effectively doubling the JobSeeker allowance.”The time-limited supplement will be also be given to those who receive Youth Allowance jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.

“Anyone who is eligible for the coronavirus supplement will receive the full rate of the supplement of $550 per fortnight,” the federal government said in a statement. There will also be expanded access to income payments over the period of the coronavirus supplement.

Who will get the payment?

This will include those who lose their jobs during the pandemic, whether they’re full time, casual or a sole trader.

“JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance JobSeeker criteria will provide payment access for permanent employees who are stood down or lose their employment; sole traders; the self-employed; casual workers; and contract workers who meet the income tests as a result of the economic downturn due to the coronavirus,” the statement said.

“This could also include a person required to care for someone who is affected by the coronavirus.”

Asset testing will also be waived during the period for those on the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker and Parenting Payment.

“Income testing will still apply to the person’s other payments, consistent with current arrangements,” the government said.

How to Apply

You can start your application online. First, you need to create a MyGov account if you don’t already have one. Then you will need to link your account to the Centrelink service. If you’ve not received Centrelink payments before, you will need to call Centrelink to get a Customer Reference Number – and this can take a while.

Login into MyGov, select “Link Your First Service” and follow the prompts. You will be asked a series of questions and may need to provide bank details and other information.

Then log back into MyGov, select Centrelink, and make your claim.

You will be back paid to the day you first tell Centrelink you intend to apply for JobSeeker payment, even if you don’t complete your JobSeeker payment application that day.

Making a claim

The JobSeeker payment is available to Australian citizens and residents aged between 22 and 66. Residents who are not citizens must usually serve a waiting period, but all waiting periods have been waived by the government.

You need to be considered a “jobseeker” and be looking for work. Or you might be temporarily unable to work because you are injured or sick.

Aside from jobseekers, it will also be paid to people who receive Parenting Payment (Partnered and Single), Farm Household Allowance, Special Benefit recipients.

The government says it plans to extend this further to full-time students who receive Austudy, Abstudy and Youth Allowance (Student).

Arrangements for those looking for work will also be more flexible during this unprecedented time. “Jobseekers who have caring responsibilities, or who need to self-isolate, are able to seek an exemption from their mutual obligation requirements without the need for medical evidence. Job plans will be adjusted to a default requirement of four job searches a month (or once a week) to reflect softening labour market conditions.”

What do You Need

You will need a bunch of supporting documents, including things like your tax file number, bank details and financial statements. There is a list on the Services Australia website.

You will eventually need to provide proof of your identity using a selection of the documents listed here. The government says you can now do this by phone without attending a Centrelink office.

From 27 April, claimants will no longer need to provide employment separation certificates from each employer in the past 12 months. Instead, people will make an initial declaration about their identity, residency status and income, and state that they have been made redundant, or had their hours reduced (including to zero), as a result of the economic downturn due to coronavirus.

Do You Need to go to a Centrelink office?

No. The government says it will allow people to verify their identity by speaking to Centrelink staff over the phone. You should have your identification documents ready.

Application process

The application process will be streamlined, making it simpler for people to apply as well as removing certain requirements.

These include employment separation certificates, proof of rental arrangements and verification of relationship status. The ‘Job Seeker Classification Instrument assessment’ will also be removed. This is usually in place for those who have recently left jobs, to recognise they are job-ready.


The requirements that job seekers have to make an appointment with an employment service provider before they can be paid, is also set to be removed for the period.

What happens if You're still working or get a job?

You may still be eligible to receive JobSeeker payment. Whether you are still considered unemployed has to do with the number of hours you work each week. If you are doing casual or part-time work, but your hours have been reduced, you can still get the unemployment benefit.

The rate of your payment will be tapered down depending on how much employment income you earn each fortnight. You will still get the $550 per fortnight Coronavirus supplement in full, as long as you earn less than about $1,100 in a fortnight.

What will I need to do once I’m on JobSeeker payment?

You will be a “jobseeker” and will have to meet what is called “mutual obligations”. The government has relaxed these to reflect changes to the job market. You will be assigned to an employment services provider and they will create a job search plan for you. This will include applying for a minimum of four jobs a month. You will have to record these job searches.

You will also have to report your income (whether you earn any or not) each fortnight to Centrelink. You may be asked to undertake training courses. These will be done online during the crisis.

In the video below: Know what is the Early Warning Sign of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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