Australia markets closed

Wartime scenes: Thousands queue as Centrelink phones clog

Centrelink lines are again hours-long. Source: Getty

It’s groundhog day at Centrelink as Australians queue up around blocks, hours before offices are set open their doors.

Just yesterday Centrelink offices across Australia were flooded with queues of small business owners seeking to sign up for their coronavirus supplement payment, after the Prime Minister introduced it n Sunday.

And while the government urged Australians to try calling Centrelink before arriving in-person, those who try say they’re waiting on hold for hours, or getting hung up on.

“Can't link my Centrelink to myGov because the details don't match? Stuck in a call queue for 40 mins only for it to hang up on me,” one person tweeted.

Others have reported trying to apply online or via the app - both of which are slow, or simply don’t work.

“Was trying to do some Centrelink stuff on my app it didn't work, so tried online, again no luck. the app and website are just as overwhelmed,” one person said.

For new applicants however, you are required to sign up for the coronavirus supplement in person, despite the PM’s strict ‘social distancing’ rules.

This is set to change in April, when Services Australia will allow new applicants to verify their identity over the phone.

Yesterday, the myGov website also crashed causing havoc among Aussies attempting to link their Centrelink account.

Centrelink staff ‘distressed’

The Community Public Sector Union has called on the government to protect Centrelink staff in this “distressing” time.

“It was a distressing day for those thousands of people lining up outside of Centrelink offices, but also distressing day as well for our members working in Centrelink, who are desperately trying to help them,” the CPSU told the ABC.

“On the whole, the feedback I’ve had from our members is that people were patient and understanding, and we respect that and we hope that people continue to be so. But for many of our members, yesterday was the toughest day of their working life, looking at those queues, knowing there were thousands of Australians in desperate need of help and not being able to get to them.”

The Coronavirus supplement

The Coronavirus supplement is set at $550 per fortnight, and will be available to small business owners and casuals who meet the income test as well as those already on the JobSeeker Payment, formerly Newstart.

“This means, anyone eligible for the maximum JobSeeker payment will now receive more than $1,100 a fortnight, effectively doubling the jobseeker allowance,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said yesterday.

The Coronavirus supplement will be paid for the next six months on top of their payment each fortnight.

Make your money work with Yahoo Finance’s daily newsletter. Sign up here and stay on top of the latest money, news and tech news.

Follow Yahoo Finance Australia on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.