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Commonwealth COVID-19 Disaster Payment

The COVID-19 Disaster Payment was originally announced on 3 June 2021 in response to the May/June 2021 Victorian lockdown (and made applicable to future Commonwealth declared hotspots such as in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia).

 

Its primary aim is to provide weekly assistance to eligible individuals (i.e., eligible full time, part time and casual workers) who have lost hours of paid work due to state imposed health restrictions.

Both the eligibility criteria and the value of the COVID-19 Disaster Payment have been moving targets as it has been applied to subsequent COVID-19 hotspots and the resulting public health orders. How much of the Disaster Payment an individual receives will depend upon factors such as the location of the applicable health order, the period the individual is claiming for and the hours of work they lost. Refer to the Services Australia website for more guidance.

Under the current version of the COVID-19 Disaster Payment, eligible recipients generally receive:

  • $750 each week if a person has lost 20 hours or more of work a week (increased from previous amounts of initially $500 and later $600); or
  • $450 each week if a person has lost between 8 and 20 hours of work, or a full day of their usual work if less than eight hours (increased from previous amounts of initially $325 and later $375).

 

 

TAX TIP – The COVID-19 Disaster Payment is now tax-free

On 9 August 2021, the Treasury Laws Amendment (COVID-19 Economic Response No.2) Bill 2021 was passed by both Houses of Parliament, confirming the Prime Minister’s promise that the COVID-19 Disaster Payments would be retrospectively made tax-free.

 

This change in policy was made to ensure that recipients of the Disaster Payments have more financial assistance than recipients had under the taxable 2020 and 2021 JobKeeper wage subsidy program.

 

Under the changes, Disaster Payments will be non-assessable, non-exempt (‘NANE’) income in the hands of the individual recipient. It is assumed that where taxpayers received such payments in June 2021 and have already lodged their 2021 income tax returns, they will receive an appropriate adjustment from the ATO in due course.


Furthermore, recipients of Federal Government income support payments (e.g., JobSeeker, Austudy, the Age pension, etc.) or the ABSTUDY living or education allowances who have broadly lost at least eight hours of work (or a full day of their usual work of less than eight hours) in a week may be eligible for a varied COVID-19 Disaster Payment of $200 per week.

 

Sole traders may also be eligible for the Disaster Payment, however they are advised to first check to see if they are eligible for any State or Territory COVID-19 business support payments. This is because they can generally only be eligible for either the COVID-19 Disaster Payment or a State or Territory business support payment for a relevant period (but not both).

 

To make a claim, most individuals will do this directly online via their myGov account that needs to be linked to their Centrelink Online account. Working visa holders may also be eligible, however, to claim they will need to call Services Australia on 180 22 66.

Further information can be found: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/covid-19-disaster-payment


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