*(Photo: Emily Cokely)
Madeleine Achenza has been navigating the COVID-19 support payments process this week, and has this update on her tips for those in the Centrelink queue

UPDATED MARCH 26: When you need someone or something to help you navigate being without an income during a pandemic, a bot is not the first thing that comes to mind.
But for many of those now struggling to make ends meet in self-isolation, that has been their only option.
After scenes this week of long queues around Centrelink offices, some improvements have finally been made to the way COVID-19 relief payments can be claimed.
The MyGov website has been updated to include a “Register Intention to Claim” button on the landing page when you log-in to your account.

By following the prompt, you are putting yourself on a queue to be called by Centrelink at an unspecified time. 

A Centrelink staff member today advised that you may be called anytime between 8am and 8pm. So you will have to keep your phone nearby and off silent-mode.

It’s an improvement on the blaring orchestra of the hold line.

When you are called, make sure you have three forms of ID prepared to verify your identity.

You will need one primary form of ID. For most people this will be a passport, and two secondary forms – such as a driver’s license and a bank card.

Most of the Australians desperately trying to sign-up for Centrelink benefits, are those who have never received payments before.

Services Australia streamlined claims for job seekers and students needing help as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown, by expanding eligibility for some payments and making them easier to access.

Centrelink encourages customers to avoid going in person to their offices to seek assistance, due to social distancing procedures. 

This means that you must complete your application through a combination of phone and online services.

To start, you need to create a MyGov account, then link your account to the Centrelink service.

This is where it gets a little tricky.

If you haven’t received payments before, you will need to call Centrelink to get a Customer Reference Number.

This is essential before you even start your online application.

Currently, the recommended phone number for Job Seeker payments is 132 850… but call it and the first thing you’re asked is  “What is your CRN?”


This phone exchange can last up to five minutes, but usually ends in being re-directed to the 24-hour Self Service number 136 240.

There, you will find yourself listening to hold music or abruptly hanging up in frustration.

That’s when the call-back service becomes the better option.

That gives new applicants just under three weeks to apply and be approved for an eligible payment, before they can receive the one-off $750 payment.

If someone doesn’t qualify for the $550 Coronavirus supplement but receives the $750 payment – a second $750 will be automatically on July 13.

— Madeleine Achenza @madeleineachenz