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1.3 million Aussies chased for Centrelink debts

Jessica Yun
·2-min read
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 21:  A Medicare and Centrelink office sign is seen at Bondi Junction on March 21, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. Federal public sector workers are expected to strike around Australia over a long-running pay dispute.  (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
1.3 million Aussies will be notified they'll have to resume repaying their debts. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

More than a million Australians who owe $4.5 billion to Centrelink will be asked to resume their debt repayments, as the nationwide debt pause comes to an end.

Debt payments to Centrelink were paused on 3 April last year to ease the financial burden on Aussies who lost jobs or were out of work as a result of the lockdown.

As of Monday, Services Australia has begun contacting Aussies who either owe a debt to Centrelink or were overpaid during the crisis.

Australians can expect a letter in the mail or via myGov, said Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen.

“From the start of February we’ll begin contacting people who owe money to let them know why they have been overpaid, the amount of the overpayment and their due date for repayments to commence,” he said as reported in the Daily Telegraph.

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Those who have paused payments will be sent a letter 21 days before their repayments are due to begin again.

“The earliest anyone will need to start repaying money is 28 February 2021,” said Jongen.

He reminded Australians that people could arrange to pay their debts over time, and to do this online via their Centrelink account, myGov or the Centrelink app.

Meanwhile, those who cannot make their repayments, are experiencing hardship or don’t understand why they have been overpaid should not ignore the letter and get in touch with their regular payment line, he said.

According to a statement from Services Australia from 8 January, the government agency will explain why you have been overpaid and what their best repayment option is.

“If you’ve been overpaid, we’re here to help you.”

Those who have been overpaid can access “a range of services” such as online tools and social workers who can provide counselling, information and referrals to other services.

Centrelink debts that aren’t repaid can rack up interest charges of 7 per cent or higher from debt collection agencies engaged by Services Australia, according to the Daily Telegraph.

For more information on repaying debts to Centrelink, Aussies are encouraged to ring 1800 076 072 or visit servicesaustralia.gov.au/debts.

Yahoo Finance has reached out to Services Australia for further comment.

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