Retirees can catch a COVID-19 cash bonus

Senior Australians are being urged to check what assistance they're eligible for amid COVID-19 or risk missing out on a financial boost.

Assistance packages to combat the economic fallout of the coronavirus mainly help workers and businesses, but retirees aren't missing out completely.

Two $750 cash boosts for pensioners are key benefits, but there have also been changes to deeming rates, special deals on bank deposits, and increasing pension eligibility as financial markets fall.

Retiree couples who don't qualify for the age pension because of a high level of assets can still get the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card if their combined annual income is below $89,290.

Later Life Advice founder Brendan Ryan said holders of the CSHC received the $1500 in COVID-19 stimulus payments.

"If you still haven't applied for your card, you have until early July to get it and get the second stimulus payment of $750," he said.

"The government's offering more and more programs to help older Australians but you need to apply.

Some retirees are surprised to learn the wide range of benefits they might receive.
Some retirees are surprised to learn the wide range of benefits they might receive.

"There's a whole cohort of older Australians who find it hard to work this out because it comes from multiple agencies. A number of offers have come through and people are completely surprised."

Plunging share prices have pushed some self-funded retirees into pension payment territory.

A single person can have $578,000 and a couple $869,000 and still get a part pension.

"It's not just about the pension payment - it's the 40 or so other concessions, programs and discounts that can save you thousands of dollars each year," Mr Ryan said.

"If somebody is not eligible for the age pension they should understand very clearly why."

Mr Ryan said every $1000 fall in assets could mean an extra $78 a year in age pension.

He said the Pension Loans Scheme was available for seniors to dip into their home's equity - even if not eligible for the age pension.

"A single over 66 could borrow up to $37,000 per year, and a couple up to $55,000."

A recent cut to deeming rates could also give people a pension boost or qualify them for other assistance, Mr Ryan said.

Association of Independent Retirees president Wayne Strandquist said self-funded retirees "seem to have missed out on all the support going around" despite being hit hard by COVID-19.

Assistance was largely linked to pension recipients, he said, and self-funded retirees "are not known to Centrelink".

Retirees who rely on dividends for income are struggling as big banks cut or deferred payouts to shareholders.

"I don't think they anticipated that we would see banks halving their payout or more, and that's effectively halved their income," Mr Strandquist said.

He said retirees should get familiar with asset test and income test thresholds for pensions and also the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and Low Income Health Card.

"Even a part age pension means they immediately satisfy the rules for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and the income support of the $750 that's yet to come in July.

"If you haven't checked your eligibility in recent times, do so and persist."

Originally published as Retirees can catch a COVID-19 cash bonus