Staff at Services Australia will be working late into the evenings this week to process potentially half a million applicants for new COVID-19 disaster payments.
The hastily prepared new scheme will assist residents suffering through an extended lockdown lasting at least two weeks with payments of up to $500 per week to replace lost income.
Chief executive Rebecca Skinner said the agency was preparing for Tuesday's online application launch to be like a starter gun.
"It'll go off," Ms Skinner told Budget estimates on Friday. "There may be 500,000 people who come forward in one hit.
"We are mobilising thousands of our staff to be able to process those as quickly as we can. We'll certainly be maximising staff working into the evenings next week."
The initial recipients will be those impacted by the latest restrictions on Melbourne, now into week two, who can apply through myGov from Tuesday if they have no leave balance other than annual leave, and are not on other government support payments.
Ms Skinner said it was not yet clear how long it would take the agency to process each application due to the high volumes expected, but once each is approved the recipient could be paid "immediately."
Anyone who loses their job due to a lockdown will still be expected to apply for JobSeeker separately, officials said, and those payments could take longer to reach the recipient.
The temporary disaster payment scheme was announced on Thursday for Victoria, and confirmed nation-wide on Friday following national cabinet negotiations in which first ministers agreed to provide all assistance to businesses while the Commonwealth funds the demand-driven payments.
Recipients must not have liquid assets of more than $10,000 or be receiving business or income support payments, or the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, and have already exhausted any leave entitlements other than annual leave. They will receive up to $500 per week for losing 20 hours or more of work, or $325 per week for losing under 20 hours.
The payments are only eligible from the second week of lockdown restrictions, and subject to a Commonwealth coronavirus hotspot being declared.
The Victorian government and the ACTU were unhappy with the size of the payments, described as "perplexing and insulting".
"This payment will leave working people with nothing for a full week before a restricted number are able to access a small support payment, a third below the minimum wage and half the standard disaster relief payment, which will not secure their employment," ACTU President Michele O'Neil said.
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