The pandemic is continuing to wreak havoc on Australians’ livelihoods – so what financial help is out there?
Flights are being cancelled and businesses closed down while close contacts and COVID-positive people are losing pay due to isolation requirements.
This is not a new story during the pandemic, but the sting of previous outbreaks was lessened by cash flow boosts for businesses and disaster payments for stood-down workers.
Much of that emergency financial support ended in 2021, but cash-strapped Australians still have a few options at their disposal.
Here’s what support is on offer.
Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment
The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is a lump sum payment available to Australian residents or visa holders who are unable to work and earn an income because they have to:
- Self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 (either because you contracted the virus or are a close contact of someone who has)
- Care for someone who has to self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19.
If your isolation period started before January 10, you must have been directly informed by a health official you have COVID-19 to be eligible for this payment.
From January 10 onwards, the government will deem you eligible if you can provide evidence such as advice of a positive test from a testing clinic or health professional, or evidence that you have registered a positive result from a home-administered rapid antigen test with your state health authority.
The payment is only available to people with no sick leave entitlements, including pandemic sick leave, personal leave, or leave to care for another person.
And it cannot be claimed by people who receive other income support payments such as JobSeeker or the ABSTUDY Living Allowance.
The sum you receive varies depending on the date and length of your isolation periods:
- For each 14-day isolation period up to, and including, December 8, 2021: $1500
- For each seven-day isolation period on, or after, December 9, 2021: $750 (you must make a new claim for every seven-day period).
From January 18, you could also be eligible for up to $750 if you have lost at least a day of work because you are isolating due to being COVID-19 positive, care for someone who has the virus, or meet the definition of a close contact.
The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment will also be scaled based on the number of hours of work you have lost, or expect to lose, during an isolation period of up to seven days:
- You are still entitled to $750 if you have lost or expect to lose 20 hours or more
- You will be entitled to $450 if you have lost or expect to lose at least a day of work or up to 19 hours.
A financial hardship test will also be introduced, meaning if you have available funds of $10,000 or more, you will be ineligible for the payment.
Your payment could vary further based on whether you receive Family Assistance, such as Family Tax Benefit or Childcare subsidy, or have a Child Support assessment.
The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is also taxable income, which means you’ll need to include it in your income tax return.
For more information on eligibility and how to make a claim, visit Service Australia’s website.
State and territory support
Some state and territory governments are also offering support to workers, but most stipulate that you cannot access these payments if you are already receiving the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.
- Australian Capital Territory: You may be able to get $270 as part of the COVID-19 Hardship Payment if you’ve missed work because you, or someone you care for, are complying with public health orders (including isolating as a close contact or waiting for test results). The payment is not available to people receiving the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, but the ACT is also offering several measures to support businesses and property tenants.
- New South Wales: If you are a worker who needs to self-isolate and is unable to work while waiting for a COVID-19 test results, you can receive $320 if you are eligible and apply within seven days of getting tested. The payment is not available to people receiving the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.
- South Australia: If you are isolating after being identified as a close contact by SA Health, or while waiting for COVID-19 test results, you could receive $300. The payment is not available to people receiving the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.
- Tasmania: Tasmania is offering several forms of financial support. You could receive the Test and Isolate payment of $250 if you have missed work because Public Health has directed you or someone you are caring for to isolate while waiting for a COVID-19 PCR test result. You can also receive $250 for missing work due to attending a vaccine appointment or in the days after receiving your vaccine, and $750 if you are an unvaccinated returning resident who has been directed to quarantine. If you cannot access the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment but are required to quarantine, you can apply for the Tasmania government’s Pandemic Isolation Assistance Grant and receive $750 for the first seven days and an additional $750 for a subsequent period of up to seven days. This payment can be made consecutively with the Test and Isolate payment – meaning a maximum of $1000 is up for grabs in the first week of isolation.
- Victoria: If you are unable to work because you are waiting for PCR test results and have not received the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, you may be eligible for the Test Isolation payment of $450. You should apply within two weeks of taking the PCR test.