As the coronavirus pandemic continues, even more Aussies are losing their jobs and turning to Centrelink for income support.

However, the system remains in chaos and people are struggling to figure out how to lodge a claim. Meanwhile, the government is changing policies faster than many people can keep up with.

We’ve answered your questions in the past, but you still had more! Here’s part three of our series answering your questions and explaining everything you need to know about navigating the clusterfuck that is Centrelink during the coronavirus pandemic.

Also be sure to check our past installments for previously-answered questions:

When will the $750 payments roll in?

Most likely next month.

People who are eligible for the one-off $750 Economic Support Payment will start seeing the money from March 31. In a statement, Centrelink said it expects “most” clients to receive the payment by April 17.

The payment will be automatically distributed to people on the Youth Allowance, Newstart, Austudy and many more payments. People who are not eligible for the $550 Coronavirus Supplement on top of their usual payments may get a second $750 Economic Support Payment from July 13 onward.

Can I still claim Centrelink if I have leave accrued?

You cannot be on sick leave, annual leave or long service leave and access Centrelink benefits at the same time. The same applies if you have unused leave.

If you’ve lost your job due to the coronavirus pandemic and had annual leave accrued, your employer must pay you for the period of untaken leave. In this case you may become eligible for Centrelink payments afterwards.

What about existing claims? How will they be processed among the barrage of new claims?

Unfortunately, Centrelink has always had long waiting times.

For people who made claims before the coronavirus pandemic overwhelmed the system, they have to be a little more patient. In theory, their claim should be processed as normal, however it is now difficult to call the hotline or visit service centres as both are overwhelmed by new applicants.

Any coronavirus-related payments will automatically be added to an existing claim if the individual is eligible.

What’s the go with Employment Separation Certificates? What if I was working overseas?

Stress no more, because the government has scrapped the need to supply an Employment Separation Certificate when you make a claim. Even if you were working overseas and have come home due to the coronavirus pandemic, you won’t need to worry about chasing your old employers up for these documents.

I haven’t been able to call Centrelink all week. Do I have the right number?

You most likely do, however the phone lines are all banked up at the moment.

The government is encouraging all applicants to lodge their intent to claim through MyGov. This does not require any immediate documentation, and payments will be backdated to the day the intent to claim is lodged.

If you have been told to call Centrelink, you can find the relevant phone number on their website. For the Jobseeker Payment (formerly known as Newstart) the number is 132 850. For the Youth Allowance and student payments, the number is 132 490

I was getting paid in cash but lost my job. Can I still lodge a claim?

It’s not necessarily illegal to get paid in cash, but it is illegal to not declare your cash income.

In theory, you should go down the normal avenue to make a claim with Centrelink. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has waived asset tests and the need for an Employment Separation Certificate.

This means that if you lost your cash-in-hand job, it would be treated similarly to a regular job because you won’t need to jump through hoops to declare your past income.

Is your CRN yours for life in the same way your TFN is?

Yes.

For many Aussies who’re out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic, this is their first time contacting Centrelink in many years. It may be tricky to remember your CRN, but you can’t just get a new one. Your CRN will be listed on documents you’ve receievd from Centrelink, including letters, the Health Care Card or Concession Card.

Alternatively, you can call Centrelink 132 307 and prove your identity to retrieve your CRN. This should be a last resort as the phone lines are choked at the moment.

Keep in mind that new changes to cope with the coronavirus pandemic mean you don’t need a CRN to begin the claim process. Just log on to MyGov and lodge an intent to claim, even if you have not connected Centrelink to your MyGov account.

Is means testing the same as before?

No, Centrelink has introduced changes to means testing to expedite claims during the coronavirus pandemic.

As we covered in previous explainers, asset testing has been waived and income testing for couples is set to be relaxed. This means if you’ve suddenly lost your job, you may still be eligible for a payment even if your partner is still working or if you own valuable assets.

Will a medical exemption form affect my payments?

If you are receiving a payment such as Newstart and are exempt from certain requirements because of a medical certificate, this should not affect your eligibility for coronavirus-related payments. All payments will be added automatically for those who are eligible. The government has not made any specific announcements regarding medical exemptions.

Is there anything for people not on Newstart or similar payments, but who receive the Family Tax Benefit?

Yes!

People claiming the family tax benefit will automatically receive the $750 Economic Support Payment sometime in April.

Any more questions? Hit me up at zac.crellin@pedestriangroup.com.au and we’ll have a crack at them! Don’t forget to check out parts one and two of this series for more answers.


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: Getty Images / SOPA