CRA recipients by geographic area
Statistical Area 2 (SA2) are designed to represent a community that interacts together socially and economically and generally have a population between 3,000 and 25,000 people. Within cities, SA2s represent gazetted suburbs whereas SA2s are designed to represent meaningful regions in remote areas (ABS 2021). At June 2021 (Tables CRA.2,3,4):
- Liverpool (New South Wales), Caboolture (Queensland) and Dandenong (Victoria) all had over 4,000 income units receiving CRA.
- At the SA4 level, Melbourne—Inner had the highest number of income units aged 24 years and under (6,900) and the Gold Coast had the highest number of income units aged 75 years and over.
- The local government are (LGA) with the highest number of income units was Brisbane (68,900).
CRA as a proportion of rent paid
The median fortnightly rent varies across Australia and as a result, the median CRA payment received as a proportion of median fortnightly rent also varies by location. At June 2021, the CRA entitlement as a proportion of rent was lower in capital cities compared to the rest of the state or territory, with the magnitude of difference varying across states and territories.
In New South Wales, the CRA entitlement was about a quarter of the median fortnightly rent in Sydney (25% of $560), but more than a third (34% of $420) in the rest of the state. In contrast, the difference in Tasmania was smaller, with the CRA entitlement around a third of the median fortnightly rent in both Hobart (32% of $440) and the rest of state (34% of $420) (Table CRA.6).
Impact of COVID-19 on the receipt of government benefits
COVID-19, JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance
The jobless rate in Australia increased as the COVID-19 pandemic severely affected the Australian economy (Parliamentary Library 2020). Prior to the pandemic taking hold in Australia, in December 2019, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.0%. This grew to 7.4% by July 2020. By June 2021, the unemployment rate had fallen to 4.9% (ABS 2022).
In response to COVID-19 and the resulting increase in the unemployment rate, the Australian Government made temporary changes to social security payments. These adjustments increased the number of people eligible for and receiving income support payments (Parliamentary Library 2020) throughout 2020 and 2021.
Following the first documented COVID-19 cases in Australia at the beginning of 2020, the government introduced the Coronavirus Supplement which was payable to recipients of the following income support payments: JobSeeker Payment (formerly Newstart Allowance), Youth Allowance (JobSeeker, Student and Apprentice), Parenting Payment (Partnered and Single), Sickness Allowance, Austudy payment, ABSTUDY living allowance, Widow Allowance, Partner Allowance, Farm Household Allowance, Special Benefit, and certain Department of Veterans Affairs student payments.
The main income support payments available for those aged 16–65 who are able to work but unable to support themselves are JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (Other). Sickness Allowance and Bereavement Allowance were incorporated into JobSeeker Payment when it was introduced on 20 March 2020 (Services Australia 2020). The timing of this change coincided with the outbreak of the pandemic in Australia and the rising unemployment. For single person with no children household, the maximum payment rate for JobSeeker Payment is $642.70 per fortnight. For a partnered person household, this is $585.30 per fortnight (Services Australia 2022).
In response to the pandemic, the Australian Government introduced additional payments to support lower income Australians, including the Coronavirus Supplement and Economic Support Payments, available to eligible income support recipients. Over time, the amount paid to recipients changed:
- from 27 April 2020 to 24 September 2020, recipients received $550 per fortnight
- from 25 September 2020 to 31 December 2020, recipients received $250 per fortnight
- from 1 January 2021 to 31 March 2021, recipients received $150 per fortnight.
From 1 April 2021 onwards, JobSeeker Payment, Austudy and Youth Allowance increased by $50 per fortnight.
Rental stress and CRA
CRA has a considerable impact on reducing rental stress. For this section, rental stress is defined as a CRA income unit that spends more than 30% of gross income on rent.
At June 2021, nearly three-quarters (73%) of CRA recipients would have been in rental stress without CRA. About half (46%) of CRA recipients were in rental stress after receiving CRA (Table CRA.8).
The time-limited Coronavirus Supplement was included as income for certain types of income support payments and has been included in the calculation of rental stress for 2020.
Changes over time
Prior to 2020, the proportion of CRA recipients experiencing rental stress was consistently around 40%. However, the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (detailed above) included additional financial support for some income support recipients. As a result, fewer CRA recipients were in rental stress (29%) in June 2020. At June 2021, the proportion had returned to pre-pandemic levels with 46% of CRA recipients in rental stress (Table CRA.8).
Special needs groups
Although CRA had a considerable impact on reducing rental stress, the reductions to rental stress differed between special needs groups. At June 2021, income units with a household member aged 24 or under (60% in rental stress) most frequently remained in rental stress after receiving CRA. By contrast, the least common income units in rental stress after receiving CRA were those with at least one household member aged 75 years (32%) or with Disability Support Pension payments (34%). For Indigenous income units, around 2 in 5 (37%) were in rental stress with CRA (Figure FINANCIAL.2; Table CRA.8).
For special needs groups, the proportion of income units in rental stress after receiving CRA differed across the states and territories. At June 2021 (Figure FINANCIAL.2; Table CRA.8):
- The Australian Capital Territory had the highest proportion of income units aged 24 and under in rental stress (79%), followed by New South Wales (64%) and Victoria (64%).
- The Northern Territory (36%) had the largest proportion of income units receiving a Disability Support Pension in rental stress; the lowest proportion was among recipients in Tasmania (26%).
Figure FINANCIAL.2: Income units receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance in rental stress by special needs group and states and territories, 2021