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COVID-19 Supplement extension to 31 March 2021

09th Feb, 2021

The Federal Minister for Families and Social Services has now registered the legal instrument that ensures the COVID-19 Supplement will continue to be paid until 31 March 2021 for recipients of:

  • JobSeeker Payment;
  • Parenting Payment;
  • Youth Allowance;
  • Austudy Payment;
  • Special Benefit;
  • Partner Allowance; and
  • Widow Allowance.

It will be paid at the rate of $150 a fortnight (down from the previous $250 a fortnight) from 1 January 2021 to 31 March 2021.

The period for which people are considered as receiving a social security pension or benefit at nil rate, meaning they keep their access to benefits such as concession cards, has also been extended until 16 April 2021.

A number of other temporary social security measures will also remain until 31 March 2021, including waivers of waiting periods for certain payments, some requirement changes and exemptions, and more permissive income-free areas and payment taper rates.

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Coronavirus Supplement extended (but reduced)

01st Dec, 2020

The Federal Government’s Coronavirus Supplement has been extended for a further three months. The Supplement payments were due to end on 31 December 2020, but the latest extension will allow them to run until 31 March 2021, which will be welcome news for many individuals still struggling with unemployment and other economic difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Supplement rate will be further cut from 1 January 2021 to $150 per fortnight.

The supplement was originally introduced in April 2020 at a rate of $550 per fortnight, which effectively doubled the rate of certain social security payments, including JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and Austudy. Individuals eligible for these payments received the full amount of the $550 Coronavirus Supplement on top of their payment each fortnight, lifting the total payment to $1,100 for most people.

The initial supplement was extended until 31 December 2020 at $250 per fortnight, and while the latest extension may be welcome news for unemployed or underemployed Australians, the supplement will now be further reduced to $150 per fortnight from 1 January 2021 (until 31 March 2021).

Previous arrangements that increased the income-free area of the JobSeeker payment to $300 per fortnight will continue from 1 January 2021 to 31 March 2021, meaning that recipients of various payments can earn income of up to $300 per fortnight and still receive the maximum payment rate. The partner income test cut-out will be retained at an increased rate of $3,086.11 per fortnight ($80,238.89 per year), allowing recipients to continue accessing various payments.

Those on various support payments need to also be aware of the return of mutual obligation requirements which apply to recipients in all states and territories except Victoria (at the time of writing). This includes performing tasks and activities in the individual’s Job Plan, attending to tasks in online employment services, and/or attending all appointments with their employment provider either over the phone, online or in person. Failure to fulfil these mutual obligations could lead to suspensions of payments, and penalties.

Former employees, sole traders and self-employed individuals thinking of applying for the JobSeeker payment should also be aware that the assets test now applies, as well as the liquid assets waiting period, which could see those with savings having to wait up to 13 weeks to receive payments.

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Additional $250 Economic Support Payments on the way

01st Dec, 2020

Two additional Economic Support Payments of $250 each will soon be available to people who get any one of the following:

  • Age Pension;
  • Carer Allowance;
  • Carer Payment;
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card;
  • Disability Support Pension;
  • Double Orphan Pension;
  • Family Tax Benefit Part; or
  • Pensioner Concession Card.
TIP: The $250 payments are not available to anyone who receives the Coronavirus Supplement.

To be eligible for the additional payments, you must receive an eligible payment (or have an eligible card) on:

  • 27 November 2020 to get a $250 payment in December 2020; and
  • 26 February 2021 to get a $250 payment in March 2021.

These additional cash payments follow the two $750 stimulus payments made in April and July 2020 for social security and veteran income support recipients and concession card holders.

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JobMaker Hiring Credit up to $200/week: draft rules

01st Dec, 2020

The Federal Government has released an exposure draft of the rules for the JobMaker Hiring Credit, which was announced in the 2020–2021 Budget in October.

JobMaker will take the form of a payment to employers for each new eligible job they create over the next 12 months. It is estimated that the scheme will cost $4 billion and support about 450,000 employees.

Generally, the amount of the JobMaker Hiring Credit payment depends on the age of the eligible additional employee when their employment starts. Employers can receive up to $200 per week for each eligible additional employee aged 16 to 29 years, and up to $100 per week for each eligible additional employee aged 30 to 35 years.

JobMaker starts on 7 October 2020 and ends on 6 October 2022, but payments will only apply for eligible people who commence employment between 7 October 2020 and 6 October 2021 (that is, during the first year).

TIP: If you’re planning to employ more staff, there are things you and your prospective employees can be doing right now that will help you qualify for JobMaker payments. Contact us today for expert assistance.

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JobKeeper decline in turnover tests: temporary trading cessation

17th Nov, 2020

An additional category for alternative “decline in turnover” tests is now available for the purposes of the revised JobKeeper payment system (which commenced on 28 September 2020) for entities that temporarily ceased trading for some or all of the relevant comparative period.

Under the revised system, an entity must have had an actual decline in its turnover for the applicable quarter relative to the same quarter in 2019. This generally involves making a one-to-one comparison of the 2020 numbers to those in the corresponding period in 2019, to see if it exceeds the 15%, 30% or 50% decline threshold (depending the type of entity).

Alternative tests can only be used if there is not an “appropriate relevant comparison period” in 2019, and four requirements must be satisfied for an entity to use the alternative tests for the new “temporary cessation of business” category. That is, in the comparison period:

  • the entity’s business had temporarily ceased trading due to an event or circumstance outside the ordinary course of the entity’s business;
  • trading temporarily ceased for a week or more;
  • some or all of the relevant comparison period occurred during the time in which the entity’s business had temporarily ceased trading; and
  • the entity’s business resumed trading before 28 September 2020.
TIP: If your business doesn’t meet the requirements for the temporary cessation category, you may still be eligible to apply alternative tests under other categories. Contact us to find out more.

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Coronavirus concessions: state governments

11th Apr, 2020

Some states, including New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, have followed in the Federal Government’s footsteps to provide their own stimulus and concessions for mostly small to medium businesses and in some cases to individuals and families. Most of the measures are payroll-tax-related, aimed at giving small to medium businesses a cash flow boost during this difficult time, while other measures including fee waivers, grants, relief payments and concessional loans.

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