Welcome to Support Act’s COVID-19 Resource page. We appreciate how much information there is to process at the moment, especially in relation to Government benefits and related entitlements. We have collated the following resources to help you access the information easily and take advantage of the different sorts of support that are available to you, should you need it. We hope it is useful and welcome your feedback.

For more information on the COVID-19 outbreak click here

Support Act is currently raising funds via http://bit.ly/2Qvyf3A so that we can help provide crisis relief and mental health support for artists, crew and music workers affected by the COVID-19 closures and shutdowns. For more information visit https://supportact.org.au/get-help/    

The Government will:

  • pay a temporary fortnightly $550 Coronavirus Supplement from 27 April 2020 if you’re getting an eligible payment (such as Jobseeker allowance (formerly Newstart Allowance), Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, Special Benefit or Farm Household Allowance). This is on top of your normal payment amount (which varies between payment types).
  • If you already receive one of these payments you do not need to do anything – this will start automatically from 27th April. Payments are for up to 6 months (if eligible).
  • extend eligibility for the first $750 Economic Support Payment to pay it from 31 March 2020 if you’re getting an eligible payment on any day from 12 March to 13 April 2020.
  • expand eligibility for some payments and make them easier to claim
  • make Crisis Payment available if you need to self-isolate, are in severe financial hardship and you can get an income support payment 
  • pay a second $750 Economic Support Payment from 13 July 2020 if you’re getting an eligible payment or have an eligible concession card on 10 July 2020.

Centrelink will temporarily expand eligibility for JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance for job seekers.

give you access if you’re:

  • a permanent employee who has been stood down or lost your job
  • a sole trader, self-employed, a casual or contract worker whose income has reduced
  • caring for someone who’s affected by coronavirus.

waive asset testing from 27 April for 6 months, except for Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit. Income testing will still apply. 

If you’re still working but there’s a reduction in your hours, you will need a letter from your employer confirming this.

From April 27th, you no longer have to get an Employment Separation Certificate completed.

From April 27, Centrelink will also waive the requirement to provide proof of rental arrangements or verification of relationship status.

 

If your partner earns more than $1850 per fortnight/$48,100 per year, you may not be eligible. This may change in the future -the Government is looking at this currently.

On 12 March 2020 Centrelink started a 3-month waiving of the Ordinary Waiting Period

If you’re eligible to get the Coronavirus Supplement, Centrelink has also waived the liquid asset test waiting period, newly arrived residents waiting period, and seasonal work preclusion period.

You can’t access employer entitlements, such as annual leave or sick leave, or income protection insurance at the same time as getting JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance for job seekers.

The Federal Government has introduced a new wage subsidy called “JobKeeper”. The $130 billion package aims to keep businesses poised for a return to “business as usual” in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, by keeping the staff of Australian businesses employed and “ready to go” when social restrictions are lifted.

In Summary:

  • A subsidy of $1,500 per fortnight, per employee will be paid to businesses who have experienced a downturn in turnover of at least 30% compared to the same period last year
  • In order to take part in the subsidy package, employers will need to commit to continuing to pay a wage of at least $1,500 per fortnight (before tax), or to pass on the $1,500 JobKeeper payment to eligible employees
  • Self employed business operators can also access the JobKeeper payment where they have also experienced a decline in turnover of at least 30% compared to the same period last year
  • Subsidy payments will be paid in arrears by the ATO to employers one month after wages have been paid to employees (and reported to the ATO). The first round of subsidy payments are scheduled to arrive in the first week of May 2020, but will be retrospectively calculated from 30 March 2020 for qualifying employers.
  • The subsidy payments will continue for 6 months, and employers will need to meet eligibility tests throughout this period in order to continue to receive the subsidy payments.
  • From 20 April, employers and the self-employed can register to claim the subsidy with the ATO by following the link here: https://www.ato.gov.au/general/gen/JobKeeper-payment/
  • To claim JobKeeper for the fortnight starting 30 March and/or the fortnight starting 13 April, employers must be registered with the ATO by the end of April.  Otherwise, employers must be registered by the end of the fortnight for which they seek to claim

Am I an eligible employer?

You are an eligible employer if you can demonstrate that the business has experienced a reduction in turnover (i.e. revenue) of at least 30% in a month when compared to the same month last year. e.g. March 2020 had more than 30% less revenue than March 2019.

If the business was not in operation in 2019, an alternative test will be developed by the ATO.  This is likely to involve an averaging of turnover in the months before the decline.

What about the self-employed?

Sole traders and the self-employed who hold a valid ABN will be eligible for the JobKeeper payment if they meet the “turnover test” listed above.

Self employed businesses operating as a partnership or company are also eligible, but only one of the partners or directors will be eligible to receive a payment.

Am I an eligible employee?

You are an eligible employee if:

  • You were employed by the relevant employer at 1 March 2020; and
  • You are currently employed by the employer; and
  • Are full time, part-time, or a long term casuals (a casual employee employed on a regular basis for 12 months as at 1 March, provided that you are not also employed part time or full time by another employer); and
  • Were at least 16 years of age at 1 March 2020; and
  • Are an Australian citizen, hold a permanent visa, are a Protected Special Category Visa Holder, a non-protected Special Category Visa Holder who has been residing continually in Australia for 10 years or more, or a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa Holder (ie a Kiwi working in Australia); and
  • Are not in receipt of a JobKeeper Payment from another employer

What if I have already been stood-down or made redundant?

Employees that have already been stood-down (but were employed as at 1 March 2020 and continue to be on the books) are eligible to receive the JobKeeper payment.  They don’t need to be stood back up to receive the JobKeeper payment, but can perform some work if there is work available.  If the JobKeeper payment is paid to an employee who is not currently performing any work, the JobKeeper payment will be subject to PAYG withholding tax, but won’t attract super.

Employees that have already been made redundant (but were employed as at 1 March 2020) will need to be re-employed by their employer.  If they can return to work, they can do so and be paid wages for that work, and the JobKeeper payment will subsidise those wages.  Otherwise they can be treated the same as an employee who has been stood down.

What if I didn’t earn $1,500 per fortnight before?

You are still entitled to have the full $1,500 per fortnight paid to you.  This is intentional, because people entitled to JobKeeper won’t also be entitled to JobSeeker.  JobKeeper is a higher payment than JobSeeker, to encourage businesses and employees to remain connected.

Where to from here?

Employers and the self-employed should register with the ATO using the following link if they are eligible for the subsidy payments: https://www.ato.gov.au/general/gen/JobKeeper-payment/

Employees will be required to complete a nomination form to confirm that they meet the eligibility requirements and are not receiving JobKeeper from another employer.

Sole traders and other self employed businesses should register here: https://www.ato.gov.au/General/JobKeeper-Payment/Sole-traders-and-other-entities/

In the meantime, make sure your business bookkeeping and accounts are all up to date, so that you are ready to prove to the ATO that you are eligible to receive the subsidy payments.  You will be required to confirm your employees continue to be eligible each fortnight, and to confirm your current and projected turnover to the ATO at the end of each month.

State and city initiatives for music

Several states and cities have announced arts and music focussed initiatives to support musicians and music industry business and workers. This is in addition to other state and federal stimulus packages.

South Australia
The South Australian Government announced that Arts South Australia has reconfigured its available grant funds to assist artists and organisations to respond to immediate pressures. Total funding of $1.5 million will be allocated in the
coming weeks. Find out more here.

Tasmania
The Tasmanian Government announced new funding of $1.5 million and operational measures of over $2 million to support the individuals and organisations leading Tasmania’s renowned cultural sector. Find out more here.

ACT
The ACT Government announced Homefront – a survival package for Canberra’s artists and creatives. Funding of up to $10,000 per artist will be available to support arts development and the sustainability of their arts practices over the next 6-9 months. A total of $500,000 will be available. Find out more here.

Western Australia
The Arts U-15k grant program offers up to $15,000 for artists and creative industry professionals to deliver a one-off project or a program of activity. The program supports the development and growth of a vibrant sector that promotes the participation and active engagement of Western Australian communities in high quality arts and cultural experiences. Find out more here.

City of Sydney
The City of Sydney announced the first stage of its COVID-19 Business, Arts and Creative Support package. The $25 million package includes a range of measures, which will be in place for an initial period of six months. Find out more here.

City of Melbourne
The City of Melbourne announced $2 million in financial assistance for artists or small organisations to develop new work, or for digital presentation of artistic works and performances. Find out more here.

#SoundOfSilenceau is a national campaign initiative from the music world asking music fans to donate to Support Act – an Australian music charity that provides crisis relief services to artists, crew and workers. Go to www.thesoundofsilence.com.au to find out how you can support and donate today.

The Australia Council announced a repurposing of all available uncommitted funds from this financial year to immediately respond to the COVID-10 crisis. The Resilience Fund has been created to provide immediate relief to Australian artists, arts workers and arts organisations and support their livelihoods, practice and operations. Approximately $5M has been redirected across three new programs: Survive, Adapt, Create. Find out more here.

PPCA has introduced an emergency special policy to provide one-off advances ranging from $250 to $10,000 for PPCA Registered Artists suffering hardship as a result of the unanticipated decimation of the live music sector. The amount available to them will be based on their average earnings under the PPCA Direct Artist Distribution Scheme over the last three years. Note that PPCA has directly contacted eligible artists to advise them of this opportunity. Find out more here.

APRA AMCOS has announced it is bringing forward its November live performance royalty payout to May. For members
who submitted 2019 performance reports, and were paid in the November 2019 distribution, APRA AMCOS will use the same data to pay you this May, rather than in November. Find out more here.

This information does not replace legal advice.

The Government is working on plans with commercial and residential landlords for a 6-month moratorium on evictions. However, there is not yet a state-wide standard in place. 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-01/coronavirus-eviction-moratorium-in-australia-what-does-it-mean/12105188

It is recommended that you discuss your situation with your landlord or real estate agent.  Make sure you email or text message the outcome of your discussions with your landlord/real estate agent, so this information is in writing. 

The Residential Tenancies Act states that a tenant can be taken to the Tribunal if rent is 14 days behind. However, this does not mean the tenant will be evicted. Only the Tribunal in each state has the legal authority to make an order for a tenant to be evicted. A tenant’s individual circumstances will be considered by the tribunal, as well as whether the landlord/real estate agent has followed the correct process.

Please note that the other rights and responsibilities of your tenancy agreement will still be in place, and you can still be evicted for other reasons (ie, subletting, illegal activity, violence etc) that are part of this agreement.

Note that if you live in public or community housing, the additional income you receive from Centrelink during the COVID-19 crisis ($750 supplement or $550 extra per fortnight) cannot be considered for calculating rent. Your rent should not increase. 

For more detailed information, contact your state Tenancy Advocacy Service:

VIC

Tenants Victoria – https://www.tenantsvic.org.au/

Consumer Affairs Victoria https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/resources-and-tools/advice-in-a-disaster/coronavirus-covid19-and-your-rights

NSW

Tenants Union of NSW – https://www.tenants.org.au/

Fair Trading NSW https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-faqs-consumer-and-business-rights#Renting

ACT

Legal Aid ACT – https://www.legalaidact.org.au/tasact

Northern Territory

Darwin Community Legal Service (NT)  – https://www.dcls.org.au/tenants-advice/

QLD

Tenants Queensland – https://tenantsqld.org.au/

South Australia

South Australian Tenants Information and Advisory Service – https://www.syc.net.au/home/housing-support/tias/

TAS

Tenants Union of Tasmania – http://tutas.org.au/

Consumer, Building and Occupational Services Tasmania https://www.cbos.tas.gov.au/topics/housing/residential-tenancies-covid-19-emergency-provisions

WA

Tenancy WA – http://www.tenancywa.org.au/

Commerce WA Consumer Protection https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/covid-19-coronavirus-consumer-protection-faq#Tenancy

 

Problems paying your Mortgage?

Mortgage Information

 

https://moneysmart.gov.au/home-loans/problems-paying-your-mortgage

The Australian Energy Regulator has made a list of what it expects energy and water providers to doing at this time. 

“10 new expectations of energy businesses:

  1. Offer all residential and small business customers who indicate they may be in financial stress a payment plan or hardship arrangement, regardless of whether the customer meets the ‘usual’ criteria for that assistance.
  2. Do not disconnect any residential or small business customers who may be in financial stress, without their agreement, before 31 July 2020 and potentially beyond.
  3. Do not disconnect any large business customer, without their agreement, before 31 July 2020, and potentially beyond, if that customer is on-selling energy to residential or small business customers (for example, in residential parks or retirement villages).
  4. Defer referrals of customers to debt collection agencies for recovery actions, or credit default listing until at least 31 July 2020.
  5. Be prepared to modify existing payment plans if a customer’s changed circumstances make this necessary.
  6. Waive disconnection, reconnection and/or contract break fees for small businesses that have ceased operation, along with daily supply charges to retailers, during any period of disconnection until at least 31 July 2020.
  7. Prioritise the safety of customers who require life support equipment and continue to meet responsibilities to new life support customers.
  8. Prioritise clear, up-to-date communications with customers about the issues addressed in this Statement, including by keeping website, social media and call centre waiting and hold messages up to date, so customers can readily access updates when they need them and relieve some pressure on affected call centres.
  9. Prioritise clear communications with customers about the availability of retailer and other supports, including the availability of payment plans, energy efficiency advice and fault repair.
  10. Minimise the frequency and duration of planned outages for critical works, and provide as much notice as possible to assist households and businesses to manage during any outage.”

Full Statement: https://www.aer.gov.au/publications/corporate-documents/aer-statement-of-expectations-of-energy-businesses-protecting-consumers-and-the-energy-market-during-covid-19

 

Resources:

National

National Debt Helpline https://ndh.org.au/

Financial Counselling Australia https://www.financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au/

No Interest Loan Scheme https://nils.com.au/

Money Smart https://moneysmart.gov.au/

Community legal centres providing specialist advice and representation to people on Centrelink and social security issues and rights, including appeals.

NATIONAL
National Social Security Rights Network
http://www.nssrn.org.au/
Economic Justice Australia
https://ejaustralia.org.au/

NSW
Welfare Rights Centre
https://welfarerightscentre.org.au/

VIC
Social Security Rights Victoria
http://www.ssrv.org.au/

SA
Uniting Communities
https://www.unitingcommunities.org/

WA
Welfare Rights and Advocacy Service
https://www.wraswa.org.au/

TAS
Hobart Community Legal Service
https://www.hobartlegal.org.au/

QLD
Basic Rights Queensland

Welcome to BRQ

ACT
Canberra Community Law
https://www.canberracommunitylaw.org.au/social-security-law.html

NT
Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency
http://www.naaja.org.au/

Darwin Community Legal Service
https://www.dcls.org.au/

National Debt Helpline https://ndh.org.au/

Financial Counselling Australia https://www.financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au/

No Interest Loan Scheme https://nils.com.au/

Money Smart https://moneysmart.gov.au/