What government help can I get if my income falls or I lose my job?

As the COVID-19 crisis subdues the economy, many people are losing their jobs or having their hours and incomes cut. Fortunately, the government is offering financial assistance to help people through the tough times. Here’s what you need to know.
Meredith Williams

As the COVID-19 crisis subdues the economy, many people are losing their jobs or having their hours and incomes cut.

Fortunately, the government is offering financial assistance to help people through the tough times.

Here’s what you need to know.

Help if you lose your job

If you’ve lost your job or been stood down without pay, you might be entitled to the JobSeeker Payment.

The payment is also available to sole traders, the self-employed, casual workers, and contract workers who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the economic downturn due to the Coronavirus.

It’s the equivalent of what used to be known as the unemployment benefit, but pays an extra $550 a fortnight on top of the usual benefit for six months from April 27.

How much you can get

Different people will receive different amounts depending on their circumstances.

The government has provided some hypothetical examples:

‘Leonie’ a woman in her mid-30’s with two dependent children aged 10 and 12 would receive $1,171.50 per fortnight, comprising the JobSeeker Payment of $612.00; an energy supplement of $9.50, and the coronavirus supplement of $550.

She would also receive Family Tax Benefit Part A and Part B of $483 a fortnight.

‘Chris’, who is married and whose partner earns less than $25,000 a year, would receive a fortnightly income support payment to $1,068.70, consisting of $510.80 JobSeeker Payment; energy supplement of $7.90; and coronavirus supplement of $550.

Easier eligibility

Gavin Debono, executive director of private business and family advisory at Pitcher Partners accountants, points out that the government has made it easier for people to get the payment.

The government has waived the usual one week waiting period and has put aside the assets test – which stops a person from receiving the payment if they own more than a certain level of financial assets.

Debono says putting aside the asset test is especially helpful, because it means people won’t have to sell any of their assets in the current depressed share and housing markets to receive the payment.

However, if you have a home loan and your income has been cut you might be able to negotiate your rates, speak to an expert at uno for a recommendation that would best suit your needs.

Help if your income drops

The JobSeeker Payment isn’t just for people with no income.

If your income has dropped below the eligibility thresholds, you might be entitled to some of the payment, although perhaps not the entire amount.

For instance, a single person with no children could earn $1,086.50 per fortnight before the payment cut out completely.

The income limits are outlined HERE.

What else?

If you have a job and your pay has been cut, then you might be entitled for some government assistance paid by your employer.

Employers which have had a substantial reduction in their income are entitled to JobKeeper Payments of $1500 a fortnight to help them keep on paying their staff.

It’s up to the employer to apply for the payments and then to pass it on to you to supplement your income.

However, if your employer has cut your income, it is a good idea to ask them if they have applied for the JobKeeper payments.

The next step

For people who have lost their jobs, Debono says the first thing to do is to go to the Services Australia website and apply for the payment online at the website HERE and then to speak to Centrelink, as the workers there will be able to explain all your entitlements.

For more information go to the Government’s Services Australia website HERE.

*Eligibility for government benefits will be determined by Centrelink and uno cannnot guarantee that you will be approved until your application is assessed.

Meredith Williams
* Three year fixed rate, owner occupier, P&I loan with a maximum LVR of 95% and a loan amount >$150,000. Lender rates and products may change. We cannot suggest you remain in or switch to any loan until we complete our assessment. Fees and charges apply. ^ WARNING: This comparison rate is true only for the examples given and may not include all fees and charges. Different terms, fees or other loan amounts might result in a different comparison rate. The comparison rate is calculated on the basis of a loan of $150,000 over a term of 25 years. ± All loan applications are subject to uno assessment and lender approval. uno does not guarantee that it will be able to find a customer a better loan than the one they currently have or to save them money.