With nearly 700,000 active COVID-19 cases across Australia, the federal government has readjusted how people who are forced out of work to isolate can access hardship payments. Rapid antigen tests (RATs) can now be used as proof you’ve been infected with the virus and may be used to prove eligibility for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment. Previously, a laboratory (PCR) test was required.
This article outlines the most up-to-date information about the payment, eligibility and how to apply.
Am I eligible for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment?
You are eligible for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment if you will lose work or are unable to work because you’re isolating due to being infected or being a close contact.
You are also eligible if you are caring for a child under the age of 16 who is a close contact or has the virus, or you are caring for someone with a disability or severe medical condition who is isolating as a close contact of someone with COVID-19.
Anyone who has tested positive must register their case with the state government authority, where possible.
Perhaps most importantly, there is a long list of people NOT entitled to receive the payment. You are not eligible if you:
- Have access to seven days of personal/carer’s/sick leave
- Receive income support payments such as Austudy or JobSeeker
- Receive parental leave or Dad and Partner Pay
- Receive other government payments during your isolation period — for example, the Queensland Hardship Payment or the COVID-19 Disaster Payment
Other important considerations include:
- If you receive a Family Assistance payment, you will need to include the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment in your family income estimate as taxable income
- If you pay child support, the payment will be considered part of your adjusted taxable income.
- Couples who are isolating can both apply for the payment.
How much is the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment?
From Tuesday 18 January 2022, payments will shift to a tiered system. Anyone who loses over 20 hours of work will still receive $750, 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 will also be introduced, which will mean anyone with $10,000 available and accessible to them will not get the payment.
How can I apply?
You can apply on the Services Australia website or complete this form. If you are unable to use online services, call 180 22 66 for help claiming the payment.
What proof do I need?
A positive RAT registered with a state or territory health authority or proof of a positive PCR test will suffice as proof. Proof of communication from health officials directing you to isolate may also be used as proof of being a close contact.
Am I eligible if my workplace has closed because of COVID?
There is currently no COVID-specific payment for workers who are not close contacts, or who do not test positive to the virus but are affected by business closures.