There is a LOT going on with Centrelink right now. New payments, new rules, new first-time users – it’s a lot to get your head around.
Every day, the government is announcing new updates regarding who is entitled to what. We’re keeping a close eye on the situation, and will continue to cover further developments.
In our last explainer we set some facts straight about what the go is with Centrelink during the coronavirus pandemic. Then it was your turn: you asked, we answered.
So here are your most asked questions, which will hopefully explain everything you need to know about receiving Centrelink payments right now.
Is MyGov working yet?
Kind of, but not really.
The website was down earlier in the week as hundreds of thousands of Aussies attempted to log in at the same time. Government services minister Stuart Robert blamed it on a cyberattack before admitting it was his own department’s fuckup.
The government has since upped the website’s capacity from around 6,000 simultaneous users to around 70,000 users. By Wednesday, it was back up… for a little while. Some people are again complaining that they can’t log on. Give it a crack. Your mileage my vary.
Does the coronavirus supplement kick in automatically?
Yes! The additional $550 will be added to your fortnightly payment starting from 27 April 2020 if you’re already receiving certain payments.
People who receive the following payments are eligible: Newstart (now known as the JobSeeker Payment), the Sickness Allowance, the Youth Allowance for jobseekers, parenting payments, the Partner Allowance and the Farm Household Allowance.
Is there anything for students on Austudy, Abstudy and Youth Allowance?
There will be! Full-time students currently receiving the Youth Allowance, Austudy or Abstudy payments will automatically receive the $550 coronavirus supplement.
The measures are not in place just yet, but social services minister Anne Ruston has confirmed she intends to implement them very soon.
How does means testing work for married couples?
Means testing for couples will likely be relaxed in the near future.
Currently, means testing assess the income of both partners in a relationship, regardless of who is applying for income support. That means if you are now out of work but your partner still earns more than $993.50 per fortnight, you are not eligible for anything. This applies to married couples and de facto relationships.
However, as with students, the government is indicating this will soon no longer be the case. “We are in a position to flag very clearly that the minister intends to use this power imminently […] to make changes to the partner income test to make sure that they are captured by the coronavirus supplement arrangements,” finance minister Mathias Cormann said.
So if you are out of work but your partner isn’t, you might be entitled to a payment from the government in the near future. We’ll be watching closely.
Do I need an Employment Separation Certificate?
Normally when you lose your job, your employer should provide you with a formal letter stating that you are no longer employed by them. For most claims, you need to provide such a letter from all your previous employers in the past 12 months. However, if you have not lost your job but simply have no shifts due to the coronavirus pandemic, you should still be able to ask your boss for a letter explaining this situation.
These requirements have now been waived, meaning that you will not have to provide any such certificates. If you tried to apply recently and were unable to do so, then payments will be backdated to March 23, 2020 at the earliest.
How do I lodge a claim if I don’t have a CRN?
As of Tuesday night, there has been an ‘intent to claim’ process available on MyGov. This means that someone can start their claim process without a customer reference number (CRN), and then provide their documentation at a later date.
This option is on the homepage of MyGov and you really can’t miss it. In the meantime, the claim will still be processed and all payments will be backdated to the first day.
In the past, new clients also had to attend Centrelink offices in person to confirm their identity. This has been axed, and can instead be done over the phone. “We’ll take your word for it, understanding these are exceptional circumstances,” said Ruston.
Is there anything for people on temporary visas?
As of yet, nothing.
People on student visas and working holiday visas make up a huge portion of the hospitality and retail sectors, among others. Many of these people will now find themselves out of work. Because they are ineligible for Centrelink payments in the first place, they will not receive either the additional $550 coronavirus supplement or the two $750 stimulus payments.
For temporary work visa holders, the situation may be more dire. People on these visas can be deported if they are not working for an employer in a specific industry that’s willing to sponsor them. Now that many people have lost work, and very few industries are hiring, it may not be possible to find a new job before the visa expires.
For asylum seekers on bridging visas, the situation is also complicated. Some bridging visas entitle the holder to receive Centrelink payments, while others do not. The Department of Home Affairs does not give reasons as to why certain bridging visas are issued to certain people.
Ruston has said those on the “pathway to citizenship” would no longer have a waiting period before they could access Centrelink payments. While she did not specify what visas this would apply to, it would likely apply to those on certain bridging and permanent residency visas who were entitled to Centrelink payments in the first place.
Do I still need to meet mutual obligation requirements?
Not for the time being!
Because of MyGov’s meltdown and chaotic queues at Centrelink service centres around the country, the government has put a pause on mutual obligation requirements until at least March 31.
“If those arrangements need to be extended then they will. We are working in a very flexible environment and we are in a position to take further decisions,” Scott Morrison said. This pause may be extended as a public health precaution.
However, some Work for the Dole recipients claim they’ve been told to come into work. In theory, it is up to Jobactive providers to assess whether working poses a health risk. This will come into play if the pause on mutual obligation requirements is lifted.
Will there be extra assistance for sole traders?
Sole traders who are earning less than $993.50 per fortnight are now eligible for Newstart (now known as the JobSeeker Payment), even though they might not technically be job seekers. They will therefore also receive the coronavirus supplement of $550 per fortnight.
There have not been any extra measures announced to help sole traders cover overheads during the coronavirus pandemic.
Any more questions? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll have a crack at them!
If you think you may have coronavirus, either call your doctor (DON’T visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you’re struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
And please remember to wash your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) and keep at least 1.5 metres between you and those around you.Image: AAP / Dan Peled