Staring down the barrel of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the federal government did what many had been urging it to do for years - raise the rate of the unemployment payment.
The old Newstart was effectively doubled, boosting income support to those already on the dole as well as helping to cushion the fall for the hundreds of thousands of people forced out of work by the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
But with the temporary supplement due to end in little over a month, the Morrison government is again weighing up the future of support for unemployed Australians.
Will JobSeeker be cut back to $40-per-day? Could Australia's welfare payment system be set for a wider overhaul?
The emergency supplement
On the eve of Australia's COVID-19 lockdown last March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an additional fortnightly payment - dubbed the "coronavirus supplement" - for recipients of JobSeeker (the rebadged Newstart), youth allowance, parenting payments, the farm household allowance and special benefits.
For single adults with no children on JobSeeker, the $550 supplement took their fortnightly income support to $1115 - or from $40-a-day to $80.
"Our focus is on cushioning the blow and providing hope to every Australian that we will get through this and come out the other side together," Mr Morrison said at the time.
"We know this will be temporary.
"That's why all our actions are geared towards building a bridge, keeping more people in work, enhancing the safety net for those that aren't and keeping businesses alive so they can get to the other side and stand up their workforce as quickly as possible."
The boost, which was made available to both existing recipients and the masses laid off during the shutdown, was welcomed by welfare groups, unions and the business community as a necessary safety net amid the once-in-a-century crisis.
The supplement was originally due to run until September, before it was extended at a lower rate of $250 per fortnight from September.
The payment was cut to $150 a fortnight in January, where it will remain until it is scrapped on April 1.
Millions shielded from poverty
Research from the Australian National University, published in August, showed just how vital the $550 per fortnight supplement had been at the height of the crisis.
Lifting the unemployment benefit had prevented more than 2.2 million falling into poverty, the research found, while it along with the JobKeeper wage subsidy had reduced both the poverty gap and the number of people living in poverty.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has regularly referenced the research to push the case that a permanent increase to JobSeeker would be the most effective means of tackling poverty.
Raising the rate
The campaign to raise the rate of Newstart, and now JobSeeker, has been running for years - and it's gained some unlikely allies along the way.
Former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, Business Council of Australia boss Jennifer Westacott and former Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce have all in recent years called for an increase to unemployment benefit, adding to long-running advocacy of welfare groups, unions and Greens.
Labor supports an increase to the payment, although the size of the boost would depend on the outcomes of a review it has promised to conduct if it wins government.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe earlier this month lent his voice to the growing chorus, arguing that raising the rate was a matter of fairness.
"I think there is a wide consensus in the community that the previous level should be increased permanently and I've said on previous occasions that I would join that consensus," Dr Lowe told the National Press Club.
The Australian Council of Social Service last week repeated calls for the federal government to permanently lift the rate by at least $65 a day - a $25 increase on the base rate.
"We cannot leave people to make impossible choices between food, rent, bills basic toiletries and medications. Everyone should be able to cover the basics of their life, including people with disability and single parents who are on the JobSeeker payment," chief executive Cassandra Goldie said.
Peak employer body The Australia Chamber of Commerce and Industry has reportedly called for JobSeeker to be wound back to its pre-pandemic rate, except for those people who lost their job before the pandemic.
With fewer than six weeks until the coronavirus supplement ends, speculation is mounting about the Morrison government's next steps.
Media reports published in the past week have indicated a number of different options are under consideration.
The Australian reported that under one option on the table, the base rate of JobSeeker would be increased but a number of additional payments - such as telephone and energy supplements - would be abolished.
A streamlining of welfare payments was recommended in a 2014 review headed by former Mission Australia boss Patrick McClure.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, The federal government is also examining the idea of an unemployment insurance scheme, which would see people who lose their jobs receive up to 70 per cent of their previous income for a short period.
Individuals who were unable to find work within six months would be put on the $40-per-day payment, according to the proposal.
The government's seven-member expenditure review committee, which includes Mr Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, reportedly considered options for JobSeeker beyond April at a meeting last week.
Any changes would need to be approved by cabinet.
Asked about the media reports last week, Mr Frydenberg said: "I'm not going to speculate on speculation".
Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud indicated the decision would be made sooner rather than later, given deadline day is just weeks away.
- With AAP
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