By Alisa Sainoski

Clearly the government is trying to do their best to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  However, isn’t it just frustrating when there are daily changes, if not hourly updates, and you think you have read all the news articles and listen to all the news segments of what is going on with the stimulus packages?  Nonetheless, you are still confused and somehow can never catch up to the latest news because let’s face it, we are all going through unprecedented times.

Now if you are one of those people, I am here to help you get a better understanding without the fancy words.

JobKeeper Payment

The Jobkeeper Payment is a subsidy payment of $1,500 per fortnight paid for the next 6 months.  The first payments will occur in the first week of May 2020.  It is governed by the Australian Taxation Office (‘ATO’) and is designed to ensure that as many Australian’s as possible remain employed during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

An eligible employee must receive the full $1,500 (before tax) per fortnight even if their usual wage was less than this before the COVID-19 pandemic.  If the employee would have ordinarily been paid more than $1,500 (before tax) per fortnight the employer must top up the amount to make up the difference.

To be eligible for the JobKeeper Payment, employers must be able to demonstrate a decline in GST turnover compared to a prior period of 30% of their income.  They must also notify employees they are subject to receiving the JobKeeper Payment.  Your employer will need to make appropriate arrangements to make relevant payments to you during April 2020 if they are going to receive JobKeeper payments in May 2020.  Eligible employers will be reimbursed a fixed amount of $1,500 per fortnight for each employee they paid during this period.  If employers do not continue to pay their employees for each pay period, they will cease to qualify for the JobKeeper Payment.

The JobKeeper Payment is a gross amount which means tax and your normal salary sacrifice arrangements need to be continued.  Superannuation contributions will still need to be paid in full if the employee would usually receive more than $1,500 per fortnight.  If the employee usually receives less than $1,500 per fortnight the employer can chose whether to pay superannuation on the full $1,500 or on the “normal” amount earned.  Full-time employees, part-time employees, sole traders and casual workers who have been employed for more than 12 months (up to 1 March 2020) are eligible for the JobKeeper Payment.

It is worth noting, penalties will apply if the information is manipulated or if you receive the JobKeeper Payment incorrectly.

JobSeeker Payment

Firstly, if you are receiving the JobSeeker Payment you are not able to receive the JobKeeper Payment as well and vice versa.  From 20 March 2020 the Newstart Allowance was renamed to JobSeeker Payment.  The JobSeeker Payment is intended for those people who are receiving or going to be receiving income support through the government while they seek new employment.  A further payment called the Coronavirus Supplement provide individuals with an additional income supplement of $550 per fortnight for 6 months on top of their usual government payments.  These supplement payments are taxable payments and they will automatically apply to those already receiving payments on Parenting Payment, JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance JobSeeker, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit starting from 27 April 2020.

To help with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic the Australian Government has announced two Economic Support Payments of $750 each.  The individual payments include two separate payments for individuals who receive Government payments.  The first one will be paid in late April and will be $750 and the second payment will be paid in the next financial year.  Taxpayers are only eligible for the second payment where they do not claim the $550 supplement payment.  These payments are not taxable payments (that is, they will not be included in your tax return).

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