The Federal Government has welcomed the passage of the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Bill through Parliament, which will provide over $1.1 billion in extra income support payments for one million of the country’s lowest income earners.

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten said the passage of the bill through the Senate would see the first Income Support Bonus payments delivered within weeks.

“This battler’s bonus will help people receiving income support to cope with unexpected cost of living expenses—things like medical bills and urgent car repairs that are difficult to plan for,” Mr Shorten said.

Eligible Australians will begin receiving the bonus after 20 March 2013.

The payments are tax-free and not means-tested. They will be indexed to the Consumer Price Index to keep pace with inflation and paid in instalments in March and September each year.

Payments will be $210 extra per year for eligible singles, and $350 to most couples where both partners are eligible.

The bonus, part of the 2012–13 Budget, will be paid automatically by the Department of Human Services and those eligible will not have to apply to receive it.

“The Income Support Bonus helps achieve the balance of helping some of our most vulnerable citizens while doing everything we can to help people into paid work,” Mr Shorten said.