Enhanced support and expanded access to Australia’s social security system remains in place to support Victorians as the state continues to grapple with COVID-19.
The Morrison Government expanded eligibility for JobSeeker and related payments to ensure Australians can access support when they need it at the same time as temporarily supercharging payments and boosting funding to emergency support providers including food relief and domestic violence services.
Ordinarily to receive payments a person must be unemployed and be taking reasonable steps to obtain other suitable work and meet other participation requirements but these criteria have been relaxed to provide access to:
Sole traders and the self-employed who continue to run their businesses.
People in quarantine or self-isolation as a result of advice from a health professional or requirement by a government (Commonwealth, state or territory) if they do not have employer paid leave or income protection insurance.
People who have been stood down or have reduced hours or pay.
Crisis Payment is also available to assist individuals who are in financial hardship as a result of being required to quarantine.
The assets test and Liquid Asset Waiting Period will be waived until 24 September 2020 while the Ordinary Waiting Period, Seasonal Workers Preclusion Period and Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period will be waived until 31 December 2020 and mutual obligations for Victorians will continue to be voluntary until further notice.
Access to payments has been simplified with a temporary removal of the requirement to provide Services Australia with an Employment Separation Certificate, proof of rental arrangements and verification of relationship status at the time of making a claim.
Victorians who need to access payments are urged to use Services Australia’s online and call service options rather than visit service centres.
Service centres will remain open but only for the most vulnerable in the community. In line with the latest health advice there will be strict limits on the number of staff and customers who can be there at any one time and anyone visiting must wear a face covering. If someone attends a service centre and they can undertake their business via online or telephone, they may be asked to leave and utilise these services.
A step-by-step guide to applying for payments is available at servicesaustralia.gov.au/covid19 and information about online and self-service options is available at servicesaustralia.gov.au/selfservice or 136 240.
Recipients of a range of income support payments, including JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance, will continue to receive the Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per fortnight until 24 September 2020. A Coronavirus Supplement of $250 per fortnight and an income free threshold of $300 per fortnight will be available until 31 December 2020.
General eligibility requirements to access income support payments including the income test and residency requirements continue to apply.
Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said the Government was working with our network of Emergency Relief providers, which have 185 outlets throughout Victoria, to monitor and meet demand.
“Today I have spoken to the chair of the National Coordination Group, UnitingCare Australia’s Claerwen Little, to make sure vulnerable Victorians have continued access to food, support paying bills and other Emergency Relief including financial counselling,” Minister Ruston said.
“The Government has already provided more than $8.5 million to Victorian Emergency Relief providers to boost services during the pandemic from our $200 million Community Support Package. Of that, $95.8 million is still available and will be allocated as areas of emerging need are identified.
“In addition, the Victorian Government has been provided $7 million to date to support frontline domestic violence services during the crisis and will receive a further $7 million on 7 August 2020. Allocation of further funding will be considered at the next meeting of Women’s Safety Ministers.”
Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Michaelia Cash said given the nature of the Victorian lockdown the Government would delay moving to phase two of mutual obligations for Victoria until further notice.
“No Victorian will face financial penalties during this time, however, job seekers are encouraged to remain connected with their employment service providers to ensure they are supported to access the full range of assistance including mental health services, if required,” Minister Cash said.
Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert said the easiest and quickest way to start a claim for JobSeeker and related payments was online or via phone.
“Services Australia is taking every possible step to support Victorians during this period and are prioritising calls and new claims for people who will be impacted by the move to Stage Four restrictions in Victoria,” Minister Robert said.
“If you think there may be a change to your employment over the coming weeks, I’d encourage you to go to servicesaustralia.gov.au/covid19 right now to check eligibility and start the application process.
“People can start applying now and activate if they leave or have reduced employment and do not need to come into a service centre to confirm their identity and get a Customer Reference Number.”
Foodbank Australia chief executive Brianna Casey urged all Australians to shop responsibly.
“We understand people are feeling anxious about the current situation but panic-buying hurts the most vulnerable in our community and also makes it harder for Foodbank to get essential food and grocery items to those who need it the most,” Ms Casey said.
“With the support of the Government, we will continue to work closely with the Australian food and grocery industry to ensure Foodbank can continue to provide food relief throughout the pandemic and beyond.”