The federal government is facing calls to reduce Centrelink queues as the agency delivering welfare payments is inundated with claims from workers requesting financial support amid the nation's Covid lockdowns.
Public servants at Services Australia are dealing with a surge in demand as the agency receives 70,000 claims for government support each day - more than the daily amount at the height of JobSeeker claims in 2020.
The main public sector union on Wednesday called for the government to reduce Centrelink queues by letting new customers access help remotely, and by loosening requirements for people claiming JobSeeker or COVID-19 disaster payments to attend a service centre for an in-person identification check.
But Government Services Minister Linda Reynolds said people who were asked to attend a service centre to verify their identity with photo ID could do so within eight weeks of their claim.
Community and Public Sector Union national president Alistair Waters urged the government to upgrade its online services, saying Centrelink staff were concerned about lines outside service centres.
"The safety of our communities is key to meeting all the health and economic challenges facing us. That is why both people needing help and Centrelink and Services Australia staff must be protected to ensure that services can continue to be rolled out as quickly as possible," he said.
The federal government paid out $32 million in financial support over 24 hours on Tuesday as employees lost work under coronavirus-related lockdowns.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed the figures on Wednesday, saying the agency had already processed more than 450,000 grants of support in NSW and paid out $219 million.
Services Australia was bracing for an influx of claims last week as the government expanded the disaster payments and states used lockdowns to try to halt Covid infections. The agency has redeployed thousands of staff internally to deal with claims.
Mr Morrison said 93 per cent of claims were being handled through the myGov website.
"We're seeing payments made within 40 minutes of that claim being undertaken - or, indeed, being paid the next day. We've put in place a system of payments that is designed to be swift," he said.
The public service will redeploy staff to Services Australia using a surge reserve of employees ready to be seconded for critical tasks.
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