Transcript: 3AW Afternoons, Interview with Dee Dee Dunleavy
Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC
DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: Victorians became eligible for the COVID disaster payments of up to $600 per week. To find out exactly who is eligible and how you go about getting them, I'm joined now by the Minister for Government Services, Linda Reynolds. Good afternoon, Linda.
LINDA REYNOLDS: Good afternoon, Dee Dee.
DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: There were a few issues this morning, I gather? We were getting some feedback from people that the website had crashed and that they weren't having any luck getting through on the phones. Have you got the latest on what's happening there?
LINDA REYNOLDS: Hi, yes, I do. Look, the good news is that already this morning, we've received successfully 25,000 Victorian claims. And the Centrelink online system didn't actually crash. But due to a very high level of demand, for a short period of time, it was congested. But we dealt with that very quickly. And the system is working incredibly well now. So for any Victorian who would like to learn more about it or go online, you can either go to the Service- just Google Services Australia, and you can find their website, or you can go to myGov account and apply online from there. So the system is working very well at the moment.
DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: Are you surprised by that figure, that number of people who were applying this morning?
LINDA REYNOLDS: I'm not surprised. Unfortunately, we knew, we thought that would be sort of around about the case. But if you have a look at how many people have been claiming from New South Wales, I think that gives us an indication. So in New South Wales, we've had between 60 and 70,000 a day. We've granted nearly 600,000 claims to the value of about- nearly- just under $300 million so far in New South Wales. But the good news is, if you claim online through myGov, you will get paid overnight. But in many cases they're actually having the money in the bank within an hour. So I would say to all Victorians today, if you haven't got a myGov account, please go and register and sign up for a myGov account. And 93 per cent of people are applying online, and that is the quickest way to claim.
DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: So how long was the website down for?
LINDA REYNOLDS: The website wasn't actually- it wasn't down. There was a very short period of time in the late morning where it just slowed down. So what happens is, when we get too many online claims at once, we make sure that those that are already online continue and conclude, and then we bring more people back into the system. So that's actually to prevent it from crashing.
DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: Right, okay then. So let's be absolutely clear. Who is eligible for these disaster payments?
LINDA REYNOLDS: Well, the disaster payments for people who are 17 years and older, you need to be an Australian citizen, or you need to be a resident of Australia, or a holder of a temporary Visa that gives you work rights here in Australia. So you either need to live in an area that is subject of a Commonwealth hotspot declaration, and also subject to restricted movement or to state lockdowns. So Victorians became eligible today to apply for the COVID-19 disaster payment, and- from midnight this morning, actually. So that's the main criteria. But what will not make you eligible is if you are already receiving an income support payment from the Commonwealth, or the pandemic leave disaster payment. So those are the main reasons why you wouldn't be eligible. But for most Victorians who have- are an Australian citizen, you've got work rights, and you've had your income affected through the hot spot and the lockdown, then you can apply for one of two payments.
DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: And the people who are, and I think you may have just spelled that out there, people who are already receiving welfare payments of any sort, they’re also not eligible.
LINDA REYNOLDS: No, they're not, because they are already receiving income support from the government.
DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: And because we're in our fifth lockdown here in Victoria, does this only apply to people who've lost work during this most recent lockdown?
LINDA REYNOLDS: Yes, it does. So if you've got- so any questions, generally, about eligibility, please do google Services Australia. And we've got information in 63 separate languages as well. And we've also got multicultural service officers. So if English is not your first language, we do have assistance now in 63 different languages. But just to make it clear, so in terms of eligibility, we have two payments. So, the first payment is for somebody who has lost 20 hours or more of work in the week. And they are eligible to a $600 a week payment. But if you've lost between eight or 20 hours a week, you can apply for the $375 for that week. Now the other change we have made, is that in the previous lockdown payment for Victoria, you had to reapply every week. So once you have applied today or tomorrow or this week, because you've been impacted, it will automatically reoccur until eligibility is finished, so until the restrictions are lifted. But it is important that if your salary and your work circumstances change, we are relying on people to be honest and to get back to Services Australia to let us know.
DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: And give us any idea of how long it will take for those payments to come through?
LINDA REYNOLDS: Well, if you make a claim online, it will- so if you make a claim online today, at the latest, it will be in your bank account in the morning. But many people are getting it within an hour of actually concluding their application and it being granted.
DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: Alright. And is this something you have to get on straight away? Is there a cut-off date of when people can apply for these payments?
LINDA REYNOLDS: No, once they're eligible from today, they can apply from today. So it will continue until- obviously there is no longer a lockdown and a hotspot declared in Melbourne and in Victoria.
DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: Okay and just the other question, is there an upper age limit? I'm just wondering with people who are receiving a pension? Will they be affected by that?
LINDA REYNOLDS: No, because they're actually receiving a pension from the Federal Government. So they were already receiving income support. So this is for people who are not receiving income support from the Commonwealth government, and who have had, it doesn't matter whether your casual, part-time or full-time, if you've had your hours impacted, then you can go and apply. And there's more information about individual eligibility online on Services Australia.
DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: Alright. And that's where we go to apply? Servicesaustralia.gov.au?
LINDA REYNOLDS: Yes, you can do it through there. But if you already have a myGov account, then you can go straight online to myGov. And you just google myGov, and it will come up, and you can go through and apply there.
DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: I appreciate your time today, thank you. And I'm glad that those issues with the swamping of the website have been sorted out, because I think it was frustrating a few people. Thank you very much for your time. Linda Reynolds, there, the Minister for Communication.