Financial Resources Available To Assist Housholds During COVID-19

Financial Resources Available To Assist Housholds During COVID-19

WhatsApp

The Federal government has an official information service on WhatsApp and a mobile app to provide advice and updates:
Aus.gov.au/whatsapp
Coronavirus Australia available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play
More info Click Here 

New South Wales – Emergency Relief Packages

If you’ve been directed to self-isolate, and have no family or friends able to help you with shopping, emergency relief packages are now available. The packages contain 2 weeks of food and personal care items, such as:
• Pasta
• Long life milk
• Canned vegetables
• Toilet paper.
The Office of Emergency Management together with Foodbank are coordinating the supply of the packages. Call 13 77 88.
https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/emergency-relief-packages

The Federal Government also has a directory of community organisations in each state and territory providing emergency relief such as food and food parcels:
https://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/communities-and-vulnerable-people/programs-services/emergency-relief

Utilities

• All utility retailers are required to have a Financial Hardship policy, customers will need to contact their retailer directly:
https://www.aer.gov.au/consumers/useful-contacts-for-customers/energy-retailer-contact-details
• The Low Income Household Rebate provides NSW concession card holders with $285 (excluding GST) a year to eligible customers who hold an electricity account; or $313.50 a year to eligible long-term residents of residential communities (caravan and mobile home parks), retirement villages and strata schemes who receive electricity bills from or on behalf of their community operators. Contact retailer directly.
http://www.resourcesandenergy.nsw.gov.au/?a=463234
• The Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) scheme gives a $50 to people experiencing bill stress. Find participating providers here:
https://energysaver.nsw.gov.au/households/rebates-and-discounts/help-for-households-facing-energy-bill-stress

• The Australian Energy Regulator has 10 expectations of energy providers including:
o Do not disconnect any residential or small business customers who may be in financial stress, without their agreement, before 31 July 2020 and potentially beyond.
o Defer referrals of customers to debt collection agencies for recovery actions, or credit default listing until at least 31 July 2020.
https://www.aer.gov.au/publications/corporate-documents/aer-statement-of-expectations-of-energy-businesses-protecting-consumers-and-the-energy-market-during-covid-19

Rent Assistance

• Under current laws, there are no specific exemptions or changes to the ordinary process relating to rent arrears and notices to vacate, due to events like Covid-19.
• Contact your landlord/real estate agent to let them know you have been impacted.
• Tenants Union NSW are providing updates:
https://www.tenants.org.au/blog/renting-and-covid-19-information

Housing

• Renters have a moratorium on evictions. Federal Government has announced that all states and territories will put a moratorium on evictions of persons under financial stress caused by the coronavirus, for the next six months
• Home loan customers in financial difficulty can defer their mortgage payments for up to six months
Newstart and other Centrelink payments
• Effectively doubling of income support for those on JobSeeker (formerly Newstart) for six months
• A six-month coronavirus supplement of $550 a fortnight for existing and new recipients of benefits including JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment recipients, Farm Household Allowance recipients and Special Benefits.
• The government will also waive the asset test and waiting periods to access the payment.
• Eligibility for JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance for job seekers has been expanded to include: permanent employees who have been stood down or lost their job, sole traders, self-employed, casuals or contract workers whose income has reduced and those caring for someone who’s affected by COVID-19.
https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/jobseeker-payment

Pensioners and Carers

There are two automatic $750 Economic Support Payments. If you’re living in Australia and get an eligible payment, you will get two $750 payments:
• between 12 March and 13 April 2020, and
• from 13 July 2020
https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/news/more-financial-support-people-affected-coronavirus

Crisis Payment

A one-off Crisis Payment is available if you’re in severe financial hardship and either:
• need to self-isolate
• are caring for someone self-isolating.
A crisis payment is one week of your base income support payment rate.
https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/news/more-financial-support-people-affected-coronavirus

Salary support

“Jobkeeper” subsidy worth $1500 a fortnight, paid to workers by employer.
Criteria:
Eligible employers are businesses (including companies, partnerships, trusts and sole traders), not-for-profits and charities:
• With a turnover of less than $1bn that have lost 30% or more of their revenue compared to a comparable period a year ago.
• With a turnover of $1bn or more and with at least a 50% reduction in revenue compared to a comparable period a year ago.
(The big banks subject to the banking levy are not eligible.)

Employees:
• Were employed by an eligible employer at 1 March 2020
• Can be sole traders, full-time, part-time, or long-term casuals employed on a regular basis for longer than 12 months as at 1 March 2020.
• Are at least 16 years of age.
• Are an Australian citizen, the holder of a permanent visa, a protected special category visa, a non-protected special category visa who has been residing continually in Australia for 10 years or more, or a New Zealander on a special category (subclass 444) visa.
https://www.ato.gov.au/general/gen/JobKeeper-payment/?=redirected_JobKeeper
https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/jobkeeper

Jobs

• On April 2 the Federal Government announced a new Jobs Hub to support businesses and those looking for work. The Jobs Hub provides an up to date list of some of the businesses and organisations that are currently hiring, and how to contact them, as well as the latest information on jobs by location. Businesses looking to recruit a number of staff, can email the Workforce Contact Centre for assistance.
https://www.dese.gov.au/covid-19/jobs-hub

Small Businesses

• All major banks will allow business customers to defer loan repayments by six months
• Major banks supporting Fed Govt scheme to guarantee a portion of new small business loans. For 50 per cent of new loans issued by eligible banks to small and medium enterprises in need of working capital. (The government will provide guarantees of up to $20 billion, thereby supporting up to $40 billion in loans.)
• The Australian Energy Regulator has asked energy businesses to waive disconnection, reconnection and/or contract break fees for small businesses that have ceased operation, along with daily supply charges to retailers, during any period of disconnection until at least 31 July 2020.

Banking

• All banks have a hardship team to help customers having payment difficulty with credit cards or personal loans. Assistance could include:
o A deferral of scheduled loan repayments
o Waiving fees and charges
o Interest free periods or no interest rate increases
o Debt consolidation to help make repayments more manageable
• Contact your bank directly.
https://www.ausbanking.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/COVID-19-Customer-FAQs.pdf

Insurance

• Contact your insurer to find out what your policy covers, and to make a claim. Some insurers are offering deferred premium payments or refund of unused premiums upon cancellation of policy.
• For help with the claims process, or if you are unable to contact your insurance company, call the Insurance Council of Australia disaster hotline on 1800 734 621.
Dispute Resolution (Insurance and Financial Institutions)
• If you find yourself in a dispute with your insurer or financial provider about your claim or request for assistance AFCA can help to resolve it.
• AFCA have enacted a significant events hotline: 1800 337 444
https://www.afca.org.au/news/significant-events/coronavirus-disease-covid19-outbreak-support-for-financial-issues

Phone/internet

• Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) – Vulnerable and at-risk residential consumers and small businesses can now call 1800 046 686 or 03 8600 8308 for assistance with unresolved phone and internet complaints.
https://www.tio.com.au/reports-updates/prioritising-complaints-vulnerable-and-risk-residential-consumers-and-small
• TELSTRA: Not charging late payment fees or suspending services for bills that become overdue between Thursday 19 March and Thursday 30 April 2020
• OPTUS: Waiving of late payment fees for all our customers until 30 April. Stopping disconnection and credit collection activities until 30 April

Childcare

April 2nd, the Federal Government announced free childcare.
• The new package will not be means tested and will replace the current childcare funding platform for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
• Childcare centres will prioritise children of essential workers who can’t care for their children at home and those who are vulnerable. They will then try to accommodate parents who have taken their children out of care.
• Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the health advice on sending children to school or childcare had not changed and that there is no health risk to children going to school or going to childcare.
https://www.education.gov.au/news/covid-19-early-childhood-education-and-care-relief-package-monday-6-april-additional-support

Consumer rights, travel and event cancellations, refunds

The general rule is that if a business cannot deliver a service (for example an event you bought tickets for is cancelled or flights that you booked are cancelled) you are entitled to a refund, credit note or similar.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has provided a detailed list here:
https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees/covid-19-coronavirus-information-for-consumers#travel-cancellations-and-changes

Tolls

Transurban have:
• introduced 3 months toll credit for impacted toll road users (excludes Sydney Harbour Bridge & Tunnel)
• ceased proactive debt collection activity.
• Transurban continue to offer financial hardship support through Link Assist
https://www.linkt.com.au/linkt-assist/covid-19-support
• introduced 3 months toll credit for impacted toll road users (excludes Sydney Harbour Bridge & Tunnel)
• ceased proactive debt collection activity.
• Transurban continue to offer financial hardship support through Link Assist
https://www.linkt.com.au/linkt-assist/covid-19-support

Stay safe & well during these difficult times and remember NILS is here for you when needed

Regards
Lynn Brady

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