Below, I run through the expanded eligibility for payments and changes to testing for payments, as well as providing some guidance on how to access Centrelink payments. Information is current as of the 29th of May, 2020.
Centrelink uses a Centrelink Reference Number (CRN) to manage the claims you make, the documents you provide and the payments which you are approved for.
If you already have a CRN you can apply or place a claim of intent online via myGov. You may still need to provide additional information over the phone or in person, but your claim of intent will be registered from the date of lodgement online. You can also lodge an intention to claim by calling Centrelink or visiting a service centre.
Please note, you can register your intent to claim online without a pre-existing CRN. Centrelink will then call anyone who has lodged an intent to claim online to ask for further details (such as identity checks).
To then use myGov to register your intent to claim, your myGov will need to be linked with the ATO, Medicare or Centrelink.
If you are unable to make a myGov account, please call Centrelink.
Centrelink phone hours have been extended to 8am – 8pm. The phone number is 132 850. If you do not have a myGov account, you can only get a CRN over the phone or in person, not online.
Please note, you may have a CRN even if you don’t know that you do. For instance, your parents may have claimed a benefit on your behalf when you were under 18. Do your best to investigate this, or it could cause additional delays.
Have your documents ready in front of you when you call or visit. Once you get through to a Centrelink operator, the process of getting a CRN should only take four minutes if your documents are in order. The identity requirements are available here.
Centrelink has expanded the eligibility for some of its payments, including JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance and the Parenting Payment. Please note that as of June 1, some of these relaxations will revert (e.g. Mutual obligation requirements for Jobseeker).
You may get a payment in any of the following circumstances. These include if you’re:
- unable to work
- in isolation or hospitalised
- caring for children
Information for those in these circumstances can be found here.
Additionally, if you are a sole trader or self-employed, and you apply for JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance for jobseekers, you will meet your mutual obligations by continuing to operate your business. (That is, you won’t have to apply for jobs, or establish and follow a Jobs Plan).
People caring for someone infected or in isolation as a result of contact with coronavirus will also be eligible for JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance for jobseekers. More information can be found here.
Changes to testing
For new recipients, only eligible applicants who lodge the intent to claim will receive supports. For a sense of which payment(s) you may be eligible for, please use the Payment Finder.
The federal government will temporarily waive, for certain payments:
- the assets test
- the Ordinary Waiting Period (already waived until 12 June 2020)
- the Liquid Assets Waiting Period
- the Seasonal Workers Preclusion Period
- the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period
If you’re claiming a payment you don’t need to give Services Australia any of these:
- bank statement
- Employment Separation Certificate
- letter from your employer
- relationship verification form
- information about your savings or assets.
They’ll still need information about your income, where you live and who you live with.
The income test will continue to be in force. However, the Partner Pay Income Test for the Jobseeker Payment has relaxed for claims from between 23 March and 26 April 2020, increasing the maximum a partner can earn from $48,000 to $79,000. (Gross $3,068.80/fortnight).
If your employer has stood you down due to wage concerns, they may be eligible for the JobKeeper wage subsidies, were they to re-hire you.
If you are/were permanent full-or-part time, or long-term casually employed, and on the employer's books as of 1st of March 2020, and the employer has seen turnover fall by 30%, then your employer may be eligible for $1,500 a fortnight in wage subsidies. This money will assist businesses to keep staff employed through the crisis, so that on the other side, they can resume business-as-usual.
For more information on JobKeeper, please direct your employer here.
The federal government has also opened up the possibility for individuals to withdraw superannuation tax-free. While Labor did not stand in the way of this measure, we believe it should only be used as a last resort.
Personally, I’m troubled by this particular measure. If individuals take $20,000 out of their superannuation at a time when the market is in a trough, this could end up costing a young worker more than $50,000 in retirement savings. It would have made much more sense to adopt Bruce Chapman’s proposal for extending income-contingent loans.
Nevertheless, know that in these difficult circumstances, you have options. If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact my office further on (02) 6247 4396. Please use the links provided and Services Australia’s website to stay up-to-date as new procedures are put into place to manage the number of people who need access due to the virus.