Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the new Coronavirus Supplement payment rate of $150 a week, starting from 1 January.
“We are announcing the changes to the Covid Supplement we introduced at the start of the pandemic, and we will be extending that supplement for three months after the end of December,” he said today in a press conference alongside Social Services Minister Anne Rushton.
“We will be changing the rate of that supplement down to $150 for that period, out to the end of three months.”
The extension, stretching from the beginning of January to 31 March, will cost taxpayers $3.2 billion, he added.
Legislated is expected to come through “later this week”.
Other measures that were put in place to ease eligibility for the payment will also been extended, Rushton confirmed, including the income-free threshold of $300 a fortnight; the higher partner taper rate; eligibility for sole traders, self-employed Aussies, and more; and waiting periods.
The Ordinary Waiting Period, Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period and the Seasonal Work Preclusion Period will also continue to be waived until the end of March.
“As we go forward and as the jobs market starts to open up and as our economy starts to recover from this extraordinary pandemic, we want to encourage Australians to reengage with the workforce,” she said.
“Over recent months we have put in place social security measures to support all Australians through this pandemic, but now our focus has to be on supporting Australians back to work.”
PM deflects on JobSeeker base rate
The Federal Government has long received criticism for refusing to raise the base rate of JobSeeker from $40 per day, which many groups have said are below poverty levels.
When asked whether the Government was considering increasing this, Morrison said the Government had “not yet made a final decision on that”.
“What we are focused on right now is the emergency measures that need to be in place for the pandemic. There are issues that relate to the question … they are certainly there.
“But right now what matters is the supports that will continue to be provided at these elevated and temporary levels.”
The Federal Government has reportedly extended the boosted JobSeeker rate for a further three months, but at a lower rate.
The $250 JobSeeker boost, or the Coronavirus Supplement (originally $550), was slated to end on 31 December this year.
Several groups, such as Labor, Mission Australia, ACOSS and multiple not-for-profit organisations and charities have called for a permanent increase to the base rate.
But the Federal cabinet’s expenditure review reportedly signed off on a Supplement extension last week, but at a lower rate than the current $250, and will still need a final tick-off from cabinet, The Australian reported.
The new rate could potentially be $150.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been hinting at the idea of a continuation of the supplement since July, when he said he was “leaning heavily” towards the notion that it would have to be extended past December.
But in late October, Social Services Minister Anne Rushton said there would not be a further decision on the JobSeeker rate until December.
The 2020-21 Federal Budget, handed down on 6 October, did not provide any indication of what the JobSeeker rate would be beyond December.
The fortnightly Supplement dropped from $550 to $250 on 25 September, representing a cut of $300.
Mutual obligations, which had been scrapped during the pandemic, returned in three stages for Australians outside of Victoria, starting from 9 June.
On 4 August, Australians outside Victoria were required to carry out job searches.
Penalties for failing to meet mutual obligations resumed from 28 September, with recipients facing payment suspensions or penalties.
More than 234,000 jobseekers have had payments suspended since mutual obligations returned.
The wage subsidy JobKeeper was also slashed by $300, with the new rate of $1,200 kicking in from 28 September.
The new subsidy comes in two tiers, with those working more than 20 hours a week receiving $1,200 per fortnight, while those working less than 20 hours per week receiving $750 per fortnight. JobKeeper is also slated to end on 28 March.