In the face of a global pandemic and an economic collapse, many Australians have found themselves out of work and unable to make ends meet without an income support payment.
Unemployment can be one of the most daunting experiences an individual can face, and for many, this will be their first time navigating an already-confusing social security system whilst processing the events around them.
Let’s make one thing clear: there is absolutely no shame in being unemployed or receiving a benefit. You – and every person across Australia – deserves a life of having financial access to your basic needs guaranteed regardless of economic situations. Even in these uncertain times, you are not alone in finding a path forward. We as a community are here to support you.
As the federal government recently relaxed eligibility rules for income support payments due to the effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19), this short guide should help to break down and explain how to start your claim and what to expect during your interactions with Centrelink.
If you’re aged 16-64 and a permanent employee that has been stood down or let go; a sole trader, self-employed, casual worker or contract worker earning less than $1,075/fortnight due to the economic decline; or someone caring for a person suffering from COVID-19 – Yes you are! The following payments you could be eligible for depending on your individual circumstances are:
Every person receiving an income support payment will from April 27th receive the Coronavirus Supplement. Whether you receive $1 or a full payment – you are entitled to this $550/fortnight supplement on top of your new or existing payment after this date and will be automatically applied.
Your first step should be to log-in or create a MyGov account so you can lodge an Intent To Claim with Centrelink. This will allow you time to prepare everything you need to make a claim – but also have your payment back-dated to this date rather than from when your claim in submitted.
The first and all-important thing you will need to submit a claim is a Customer Reference Number. This is basically your customer ID with Centrelink. If you don’t have a CRN, you will need to call Centrelink to confirm your identity with at least one of these documents. They will also explain to you how to link your Centrelink online account with MyGov.
Once you have your CRN and have your ID confirmed – now you can lodge a claim online! If you’re applying for Jobseeker Payment or Youth Allowance as a job seeker, you may need to provide Centrelink with information such as if you’re still working but have had a reduction in your hours and/or earnings.
What you won’t need to provide is an Employment Separation Certificate, letter from your employer or (if renting) a copy of your lease agreement. Once you’ve provided the requested information and submitted your claim, you’ll receive a confirmation with an estimated date of completion.
Even at the best of times, trying to find out how long the wait will be for your claim to be processed can be like bleeding a stone dry. With the unprecedented demand on our country’s social safety net causing MyGov to crash earlier this week, this will only add to wait times that can already push well past an hour.
What you should expect after making through the queue and onto a operator is being told that your claim is processing; and that you will be notified by the estimated date. Sometimes, a backlog on the system can cause your claim to be delayed past the date you were told. Speaking to Centrelink if this happens might help expedite your claim – but this will not guarantee a speedy outcome and likely cause others needing to make claims unable to get a CRN.
Even with Centrelink relaxing their rules – it can still be a confronting and agonising ordeal for even the most seasoned battler. Fortunately, organisations like the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union are there to support all unemployed workers and social security recipients; and to advocate for all income support payments to remain above the poverty line and an of punitive “workfare” measures.
If you ever have a question about what your rights or obligations are on welfare, having difficulties in accessing Centrelink or looking for a place to organise in solidarity – you can contact them by heading to their website, Facebook, Twitter; or by calling 1800 289 848.