Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has been urged to relax the parental income test for Youth Allowance, amid fears young Australians hard hit by the coronavirus crisis are falling through the cracks.
Senator Ruston on Monday used new powers to extend the coronavirus supplement to students and apprentices, as Australians continue to queue at Centrelinks across the country.
The minister can now increase or expand government payments as needed, due to amendments made to the Morrison government's $84 billion stimulus package on Monday night.
As a result, students and apprentices will now get an extra $550 per fortnight. The changes will help around 235,000 students receiving Youth Allowance, AUSTUDY and ABSTUDY.
"I've done this this morning in recognition of the fact that many students, particularly those that support themselves, also have incomes from casual work to support their study," Senator Ruston said on Tuesday.
However some students are still slipping through the safety net.
Michael Liebowitz, 20, is studying a prep course at the University of Canberra. His hours at his casual job have just been slashed while he was in middle of moving out of home.
He finds himself in a tight spot because he is under 22, so is not classified as financially independent for Youth Allowance. He is not studying full-time either due to the nature of his course, so he doesn't qualify on that front either.
"I'm falling between the cracks for all the different options at this time," Mr Liebowitz said.
"This is a pretty common issue."
Member for Canberra Alicia Payne wrote to the minister on Tuesday calling for the criteria to be relaxed.
"A Parental Means Test is of course appropriate normally, but these are not normal times. We have students under 22 trying to start their adult lives who are out of work and unable to get assistance. They need support too," Ms Payne said.
"The last thing we want is students dropping out of university - they need every chance possible to get a job once coronavirus is defeated. Students dropping out would also have a particularly bad impact on the ACT economy, of which our universities are such a significant part."
Even Centrelink staff were telling affected students to reach out to their local member for help, Ms Payne said.
Senator Ruston said she was working through a "broad range of scenarios" to help people affected.
"There's no one-size-fits-all family. I mean, we have singles, we have couples, we have people with children. We have people with other benefits that they need to access. So, we are being very careful working through all scenarios so that we can make sure that we are providing people with the basic safety net that they're going to need to get through this," she said.
It comes as the Australian government's MyGov website is still being overwhelmed by demand, even though the capacity had increased again to 150,000 concurrent users.
People continued to queue outside Centrelink offices, as job losses from industries shut down by coronavirus continued.
However Senator Ruston said improvements had been made to the website since demand spiked on Monday morning.
"This morning we had 123,000 people on the myGov website and the site was still operating and operating much more quickly than it was yesterday," she said.
Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said there had been more than 3.2 million logins to MyGov in just 20 hours.
"This is just extraordinary demand," he tweeted.
His office had earlier declined to provide any data about MyGov logins, stating they would not provide a running commentary.
Mr Robert has also admitted he jumped the gun in blaming the outage on a cyber attack.
"I probably should have waited for the investigation before jumping the gun and believing the warnings," he told 2GB.
"We prepared, over the weekend, for 55,000 I didn't think I'd have to prepare for 100,000 concurrent users.
"My bad, not realising the sheer scale of the decision on Sunday night by national leaders that literally saw hundreds of thousands, maybe a million, people unemployed overnight."
- For information on COVID-19, please go to the federal Health Department's website.
- You can also call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080
- If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000)
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