Go to content

COVID-19: Centrelink

This factsheet is part of a series from Legal Aid NSW that aims to help answer your questions about COVID-19 and everyday law.

You may be worried or confused about how COVID-19 will affect you and your everyday life. Sometimes a crisis can make legal problems worse or new problems might develop. Legal Aid NSW understands that there will be a lot of questions about money worries, fines, police, housing, Centrelink, employment, guardianship and mental health. This series of fact sheets will give you helpful information and contacts to assist you to manage all the changes that are happening in our community.

Centrelink and COVID-19

In response to COVID-19 the Australian Government has made changes to support individuals and families who have lost work or income.

The changes mean that some people will be able to access Centrelink payments who were not able to before. Centrelink have made it quicker for people who have lost work or income to access some payments.

This factsheet will give you information about the changes.

How do I claim a Centrelink payment?

If you are currently not getting money from Centrelink, you can check if you could get a payment by using Centrelink’s Payment and Service Finder.

The best way to claim a payment is online using MyGov.

If you cannot claim online, you should call Centrelink to discuss the best way to claim.

What is the Coronavirus Supplement?

Some people who get Centrelink will also get a Coronavirus Supplement. You do not need to apply for this supplement. You will get it if you are eligible. To be eligible you must be on:

  • JobSeeker Payment
  • Youth Allowance
  • Abstudy
  • Austudy
  • Parenting Payment
  • Partner Allowance
  • Widow Allowance
  • Farm Household Allowance
  • Special Benefit

The supplement was $550 per fortnight for 6 months from 27 April 2020.

What is the Economic Support Payment?

Most Centrelink recipients will have received a one-off $750 Economic Support Payment in late March or early April.

Centrelink recipients who were not eligible for the Coronavirus Supplement will also have received a second $750 Economic Support Payment in mid-July.

UPDATE: the Coronavirus Supplement has been extended from 25 September 2020 to 31 December 2020 at a reduced rate of $250 per fortnight.

What happens if I am a permanent visa holder?

If you are a permanent resident who is currently serving a Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period, the waiting period has been lifted for 6 months from 25 March 2020.

UPDATE: the waiver of the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period has now been extended to 31 December 2020

What special measures have been introduced for jobseekers?

Temporary waiver of the assets test

Centrelink has waived the assets test for JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment for 6 months from 25 March 2020 to 25 September 2020.

UPDATE: From 25 September 2020 people receiving these payments will have been asked to update Centrelink with their asset details.

If you have not given your asset details and Centrelink has stopped your payment, you will need to call Centrelink and provide the details so your payments can continue.

If you have given your asset details and your payment has now stopped, you might not be eligible for a payment. You can check the asset test limit for your payment type on the Centrelink website.

Increased income cut-off limit for partner income

The income cut-off limit for partnered JobSeekers has been increased from $1,858.50 per fortnight to $3,068.80 per fortnight.

UPDATE: from 25 September 2020 your JobSeeker payment will reduce by 27 cents for every dollar your partner earns over $1,165 per fortnight.

The income fee area will also increase from:

  • $106 per fortnight to $300 per fortnight for JobSeeker Payment; and
  • $143 per fortnight to $300 per fortnight for Youth Allowance

This means that if you earns under $300 per fortnight, your partner can earn up to $3,086.11 per fortnight before your payment reduces to zero.

Temporary waiver of the Ordinary Waiting Period, Liquid Assets Waiting Period and Seasonal Work Waiting Period

Centrelink has waived the Ordinary Waiting Period, Liquid Assets Waiting Period and Seasonal Work Waiting Period for 6 months from 25 March 2020 to 25 September 2020.

Income Maintenance Periods continue to apply with no changes, so it is important that you disclose any leave payments you have received or will be receiving when you are making your claim.

UPDATE: The Liquid Assets Waiting Period has now been reintroduced for new claims lodged on or after 25 September 2020.

The waiver of the Ordinary Waiting Period and Seasonal Work Waiting Period has now been extended until 31 December 2020.

Mutual obligation requirements

Mutual obligation requirements for jobseekers were suspended from 25 March 2020.

UPDATE: Mutual obligation requirements and activity requirements were reinstated from 28 September 2020.

Activity requirements include attending scheduled phone or online appointments with your employment service provider, applying for up to 8 jobs a month and accepting ‘suitable’ job offers. Your individual mutual obligations are listed in your Job Plan or Participation Plan.

If you do not meet these requirements, Centrelink might suspend your payment until you re-engage. Continued failure to meet the requirements can lead to financial penalties including suspension of your payment for up to 4 weeks.

If you cannot meet these requirements, for example because you are required to self-isolate, or are experiencing illness, domestic violence or a family crisis, you can seek a temporary exemption.

What if I owe a Centrelink debt?

On 3 April 2020 Centrelink announced that it would suspend some debt raising and recovery action for 6 months to 25 September 2020. This suspension does not apply to debt connected with serious non-compliance or fraud.

UPDATE: This has now been extended to 30 October 2020 and will continue to be assessed by Centrelink on a monthly basis.

If you have a current debt repayment arrangement in place with Centrelink and you cannot continue to afford to make your repayments, you can contact Centrelink on 1800 076 072 to renegotiate the arrangement or ask that the payment arrangement be put on hold temporarily.

How do I appeal a Centrelink decision I am not happy with?

If you do not agree with a decision made by Centrelink, you have the right to appeal. You could do this if your claim is rejected.

You can appeal a decision to a Centrelink Authorised Review Officer. You can ask for a review over the phone, or online by completing the Review of Decision Form.

You should do this within 13 weeks of the decision.

Where can I find more information?

How can I get help?

For free legal help call 1300 888 529 or call your local Legal Aid NSW office.

If you need an interpreter, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and ask for LawAccess NSW. If you find it hard to hear or speak, call the National Relay Service on 133 677 and ask for LawAccess NSW or visit www.relayservice.gov.au.

This factsheet is intended as a general guide to the law. Do not rely on this information as legal advice. We recommend you talk to a lawyer about your situation. This information is correct at the time of writing, however, it may change.

CVCIV04 | 26 October 2020 | © Legal Aid NSW