“Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don't know something, and to learn something new.” - Barrack Obama
So you’re a hard-working Australian who works their arse off just to make ends meet, juggling two casual jobs and life itself when suddenly the rug is ripped out from beneath you and any plans or aspirations that you had for the future now seem unlikely – at least for now.
At TradeMutt, we have spent two years having conversations with everyday Australians just like you who are down on the ground and doing the hard yards. We know that one of the biggest contributing factors leading to a decline in mental health is financial stress.
Regardless of where you come from, this is one language that everyone understands.
The Australian government has announced several financial packages to help Aussies cope with the growing impact of the current health crisis. It’s there to not only help ease the pressure for everyone who is feeling it, but it’s also there to help the economy survive what is sure to be a very tough period.
So, if you’re like my girlfriend or my housemate who both work in hospitality and have been given the arse, then this is for you. If you’re like my other housemate who has been working for a tech startup for over two years but was suddenly classified as non-essential, this is for you.
There is a massive opportunity right now and it is yours to grab hold of. Given the strain on communities and hip pockets, it might be time to reach out and receive some support. The opportunity is not to grab a free handout, it’s far bigger than that. It’s time to learn how to ask for help.
The only issue is, I’m sitting here trying to navigate the Centrelink website and to figure out if I’ve got a MyGov account and I’m going nowhere fast. I’ve made a few calls and chatted to a few people who have received Centrelink payments in the past and I’m not feeling very enthusiastic about passing on this information, because I know that if I was currently in this situation I’d be pulling my hair out trying to get things sorted. I can only imagine what it must be like for elderly people or those of us living with a disability.
However, we live in a country where we are lucky to have a system that can support us when we need it most – this is far more than other people across the globe have who are doing it tough. That’s something to be grateful for.
Here’s what you need to know
- The Australian Government has announced a Coronavirus supplement of $550 per fortnight. This effectively doubles the Jobseeker Payment (formerly Newstart).
- These payments will begin on April 27 and will be available for at least six months.
- This payment will go to anyone currently receiving the Jobseeker Payment, Youth allowance, apprentices and several other payment program recipients.
- Small business owners and casual workers are eligible for this if they find themselves earning less than $1075 per fortnight e.g. sole traders still in work who have seen an income reduction.
- If you’re not already currently receiving Newstart (now called Jobseekers) or another welfare payment, you will need to apply.
- The Government has temporarily expanded eligibility for these payments making it much easier to receive payments.
Now here are some home truths about the process:
Start putting steps in place now. I’ll be honest, it’s not going to be as streamlined as it could be, but it will be worth it in the end.
- Start the process – Even if the process is painful, Centrelink back pays to the date that you lost your job. Don’t avoid doing it because you can’t be bothered dealing with them.
- Don’t be deterred – If you speak to one customer service representative and they tell you that you don’t qualify, speak to someone else. The first person you speak to might not know everything.
- Get ready to deal with the system - It takes ages and it’s a complete pain in the arse. Your first point of call will probably be online. The Services Australia and MyGov websites are incredibly busy right now but try checking in throughout the day or log on late at night if you can. Your next point of call will probably be to speak to a Centrelink representative over the phone. The Centrelink phone lines are also getting slammed right now so this is gonna take a while but just keep trying. Your absolute last resort will be to make an appointment and line up at the place. Most services are now being conducted over the phone or online so that people don’t have to do this.
- Don’t give up. It sucks, you'll probably have to make more than a few calls just to get through, then you’ll probably sit on hold trying to speak to someone, then you'll probably be told you need some other document or to go back online. But if you need the money and you’re entitled to it then it is well worth it so don’t get discouraged. They’re counting on people giving up because the process is too hard to navigate, so just keep at it.
When times are tough, we advocate for reaching out for help. In the case of financial support, help is there, so don’t be too proud to ask for it.