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Huge changes to Centrelink Covid payments as virus surges across Australia

Huge changes to Covid cash payments Australia come into force today – here’s what you need to know

  • Changes to the pandemic leave disaster payment have come into force 
  • Financial hardship test has introduced, along with tiers based on work hours 
  • Rapid antigen tests can also be used as proof that you’ve been infected
  • The changes come as Aussies criticise the govt for ‘confusing payment criteria’ 


Changes to the government’s Covid-19 pandemic leave disaster payment come into effect today for those who have to self isolate or quarantine because of the virus.

The weekly payments will be reduced from $750 to $450 for people doing 19 hours or less of work per week, and will be removed it entirely for those doing under eight.

A financial hardship test has also been introduced, which will mean anyone with $10,000 available and accessible to them will not get the payment. 

Rapid antigen tests can also be used as proof that you’ve been infected with the virus, and therefore eligible for the payment.

Changes to the pandemic leave disaster payment have come into force – but it’s still available for those who have been told to self-isolate or quarantine

The pandemic leave disaster payment is available for those who have been told to self-isolate or quarantine.

Australians who can’t earn an income or are caring for someone with COVID-19 are eligible.

Centrelink will not automatically give you the payment if you enter self-isolation or quarantine.

This means individuals have to apply for it for each seven-day period they are isolating.

Australians can apply through the MyGov website, or by calling Centrelink on 180 22 66.

What you need to know about the changes to the pandemic leave disaster payment 

Previously,  the payment was delivered in the form of a $750 lump sum payment for seven days.

Now it has been changed to a tiered system.

Anyone who loses over 20 hours of work will still receive the full $750, but if you lose between 8 and 20 hours, you will only receive $450.

Anyone who loses less than eight hours of work will no be longer be eligible.

A financial hardship test has also been introduced, which will mean anyone with $10,000 available and accessible to them will not get the payment.

Australian Council of Social Service CEO Cassandra Goldie said the changes were ‘dreadful penny pinching’ from the federal government,

‘Not only do people need to deal with the stress of contracting the virus and worry of transmitting it to their loved ones, but many will also now receive less or no income support because of this,’ she said.

‘Rather than cutting the payment at the height of the pandemic, we urge the government to expand it.’

Dr Goldie says one-in-four people on income support are working paid jobs but would not qualify for the payment if they caught COVID.

‘It should also be extended to people who receive income support if they test positive to COVID, must look after a loved one with COVID or are a close contact and must isolate.’

ACOSS also wants the removal of the liquid assets tests and a doubling of the timeframe applicants can claim their support to 28 days.

Her comments come as some Australians criticise the application process as being overly complicated. 

Daisy Hooper, 23, who was recently struck down with the virus, was forced to wait 12-days for the payment, while isolating from her casual marketing job.

Daisy Hooper, who works as a casual at a marketing agency, described the process of applying for the pandemic leave disaster payment as 'confusing'

Daisy Hooper, who works as a casual at a marketing agency, described the process of applying for the pandemic leave disaster payment as ‘confusing’  

‘As someone who works in marketing and being pretty good with computers, I found the whole process really confusing,’ Hooper told the ABC.

‘Nothing really makes sense to me with all the changes every day; it’s not rational,’ Ms Hooper said. ‘It’s a bit ridiculous that [the government] thinks they’re being clear and concise to people.’

However Minister for Emergency Management Bridget McKenzie said the changes would ensure the payment remained targeted and available for those who need it most.

What you need to know about the pandemic leave disaster payment 

You may be eligible if you’re unable to work and earn income, have no sick leave entitlements and NSW Health has told you to self-isolate or quarantine.

A health official must direct you personally by letter, email, phone or SMS.

They need to give you these directions for any of the following reasons:

  • you have coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • you’ve been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19
  • you care for a child, 16 years or under, who has COVID-19
  • you care for a child, 16 years or under, who’s been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19
  • you’re caring for someone who has a disability or severe medical condition who must self-isolate or quarantine

If you claim this payment, and you care for someone with disability, or a severe medical condition, you must be living in the same household as the person you’re caring for.

You may also be eligible if you’re caring for someone who has COVID-19.

You must also meet all of the following:

  • you’re at least 17 years old and live in New South Wales 
  • you’re an Australian resident or hold a visa that gives you the right to work in Australia
  • you’re unable to go to work and earn an income
  • you have no appropriate leave entitlements, including pandemic sick leave, personal leave or leave to care for another person
  • your period of quarantine is after 17 September 2020.

If you’re a member of a couple, you can both claim this payment. You and your partner will need to complete separate claims.

How to claim the payment 

If your claim is for a period from 9 December 2021 onwards, use the Claim for Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment form.

Complete the claim form using your computer and either:

  • return the form online, using your Centrelink online account 
  • or fax the form to Centrelink 1300 727 760, if you have printed and manually signed it

 If you cannot use online services, you can call Centrelink on 180 22 66 for help claiming this payment.

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