As the government urges all Australians to stay home and adhere to social distancing guidelines, a new call has been issued to those who are considering venturing out to their local Services Australia centre.
It comes after Centrelink offices around the country saw queues of people lined up around the block on Monday, as people disregarded the prime minister’s advice to stay away from busy public places and flocked to the government agency in a bid to get their hands on much-needed welfare payments and financial relief.
Now though, Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert has pleaded with Australians to give their local service centre a miss and instead utilise one of the other ways to access information about welfare payments, such as the Age Pension and JobSeeker payment.
Here’s what you need to know.
At the end of last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled the government’s second economic stimulus package, which included several payments for those who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, or who need some extra support to get them through this difficult time. One such payment was a second cash sum of $750 for those in receipt of welfare payments, including more than 2 million pensioners.
But, before you rush to contact Centrelink to ask about the payment, ask yourself this: Do I need to?
“We urge people who are already on a payment not to contact Services Australia at this time so we can focus on supporting people who are now out of work,” Robert said.
Both the Economic Support Payment and the Coronavirus Supplement will automatically be paid into the accounts of anyone who already receives an eligible payment. This includes anyone who is already paid the Age Pension, Disability Support Payment, Carer’s Allowance and Widow Allowance, to name a few.
If you’re unsure whether you’re eligible, you can find the full list here.
Earlier this week, the myGov website crashed as a result of a huge surge in users, however Robert has ensured Australians that the website now has increased capacity to deal with up to 150,000 concurrent users at any one time. This is up from just 6,000 last week.
“We’re upgrading myGov capacity by creating more load space in our ICT systems to accommodate the surge in demand,” the minister said in a statement. “We are continuing to monitor the situation and adjust so we can allow as many people to use myGov without compromising overall systems stability.”
There has been an increase in the number of actions that people can take online too, including the launch of a new ‘intent to claim’ function which eliminates the need to call or come into a Services Australia service centre to start the claims process for a welfare payment. To access the online intent to claim you just need a myGov account linked to Medicare or Australian Taxation Office services. Once you’ve linked either of these services, you will see a prompt on your myGov welcome page to register your intention to claim.
Once someone lodges an intent to claim through myGov, Services Australia will contact them as soon as possible to talk through the next steps. For new customers this will include support setting up a Customer Reference Number (CRN).
If you’re not comfortable accessing personal information online, or don’t have access to a secure computer, then you can use the telephone.
Services Australia’s phone line hours have been extended to 8am and 8pm (local time) Monday to Friday, and 9am to 5pm on weekends. Additional staff have also been recruited, while more than 1,500 existing employees have been redeployed to call centres to assist with increased demand.
Depending on your reason for calling, you can find all of the current Services Australia phone numbers by clicking here.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.