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Policy Bulletin 2020 / 4 (COVID-19 Means Test changes)

14 Apr 2020

The Legal Aid NSW Chief Executive Officer has approved changes to the Means Test which reflect and recognise the Government’s Coronavirus economic stimulus package and the impact of COVID-19 on applicants for legal aid.

Background

The Federal Government has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by introducing an economic stimulus package which has boosted Centrelink payments across the board. The main changes for the purpose of the Means Test includes:

  • The Coronavirus Supplement, including:
    • supplementing certain Centrelink payments and low wage earners (up to $1,075 fortnightly) by $550 fortnight, and
    • the Jobkeeper supplement – payments of $750/weekly to employers to be paid to employees to keep them in work
  • One-off lump sum payment of $750 to most Centrelink recipients (and possibly further payments)
  • One-off crisis payments for severe financial hardship if receiving an eligible payment
  • Access to up to $20,000 of superannuation

In response, we have introduced certain changes that will ensure eligible applicants can access legal aid and at the same time ensure the Government policy intent is given effect. The changes also recognise that there will be new Centrelink recipients who may also have savings and/or have partners (FAPs) who are earning up to $80,000 annually.

What has changed?

The following changes have been made:

  1. We will continue to treat people on maximum payments as maximum Centrelink recipients who will automatically satisfy the income aspect of the Means Test
  2. We have included the Farm household Allowance as a Centrelink Income Support payment
  3. Introducing a standalone COVID-19 discretion into the Means Test to ensure people in need can access grants of legal aid, and
  4. Treating the coronavirus lump sum payments to households (amounts received) as an excluded asset for the purposes of the Means Test.

Where are the changes?

The changes are set out in the Policy Online at Means Test at 7.5.7 Centrelink Income Support payment at the maximum rate 7.6.5 Excluded Assets and 7.10.4 Means Test Discretions.

Commencement date

The changes to the Means Test apply to applications received on or after 14 April 2020.

Contact for further information

Please contact Aideen McGarrigle, Manager Client Eligibility Unit for any questions about the changes Aideen.mcgarrigle@legalaid.nsw.gov.au or 9219 5701.