We’re working hard to provide the latest information on government announcements, stimulus packages and support for Australians across the country. However, the situation is developing constantly, so always check your local state’s government website for more details.
The COVID-19 crisis is having a big impact across the country as job uncertainty increases in Australia. If you've lost your job or you're worried about your finances, it can help to know that there are ways to find financial relief. Many organisations are stepping up to help Aussies get through the crisis and it's always worth making a call to see what your options are.
This page is a guide to finding help and financial relief during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. To help keep the Australian community informed and up-to-date, we'll continue to publish relevant content as events unfold.
On 20 March 2020, the Australian Banking Association (ABA) announced that banks will offer businesses who have been impacted by the outbreak a 6 month deferral for business loan repayments. All banks will be working to get in contact with clients to convey this information. It was also indicated that this deferral could extend to residential loans if needed and on a case-by-case basis.
In the ABA's official statement, CEO Anna Bligh said: "Banks stand ready to support customers and if anyone is in need of assistance, they shouldn't wait but come forward as soon as possible."
The RBA has also reduced the official interest rate to 0.25%, a record low.
Below are some of the actions being taken by some of the bigger banks in Australia. Each individual bank will have their own plans to help their customers, and we recommend getting in touch with your bank to get this best information regarding your personal situation.
Decreasing variable interest small business loan rates in Australia by 0.25% p.a. (effective 27 March 2020).
Reducing new 2- and 3-year secured, fixed rate small business loans (up to $1 million) to 2.59%, effective 3 April 2020.
Providing access to additional credit (subject to approval).
Temporarily increasing overdraft facilities for 12 months.
Business customers are advised to contact ANZ or their relationship manager if they have been affected by COVID-19.
All impacted customers can request a 6-month payment deferral on loan repayments.
Retail customers can get help with the following:
Deferring home loan repayments for up to 6 months.
Decreasing the standard variable home loan rate by 0.15% p.a. (effective 27 March 2020).
Customers can access their accounts 24 hours a day through the ANZ app and online banking if they're unable to visit a branch.
You are advised to contact ANZ if you are experiencing financial hardship
Bendigo Bank is offering a range of support for its business, home loan and personal loan customers. Business customers (including agribusiness and not-for-profit customers) can expect:
A waiving of fees for the restructuring or consolidation of loans
Waiving of merchant terminal fees for three months
The waiving of interest rate reductions for early withdrawals on term deposits prior to maturity
Waiving or deferring of a range of fees and charges
Deferral of interest payments or term extensions
For personal customers Bendigo and Adelaide will be:
Offering home loan customers the option to apply for deferral on loan repayments for up to 6 months
Waiver of fees for the restructuring or consolidation of loans
Discounted interest rates on new personal loans taken out by existing Bendigo Bank customers
Waiver of interest rate reduction for early withdrawals on term deposits prior to maturity.
CommBank announced that they will be passing on the full RBA interest rate cute and has also implemented initiatives to support their customers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in the following ways: Business customers can:
Defer repayments on business loans and overdraft products for up to 6 months, as well as repayments and fee waivers for some products.
Apply for unsecured loans of up to $250,000 with no repayments for 6 months
Have access to additional resourcing and extended hours are being added to ensure quicker commercial lending decision time.
Merchant terminal fees for impacted customers will be waived for 90 days.
Defer repayments for some finance loans e.g. vehicle and equipment.
Waive early redraw fees on business term deposit account (including Farm Management Deposit accounts).
Waive establishment fees and excess interest on Temporary Excess products.
Eligible customers with principal and interest variable rate investment/home loans who pay by automatic direct debit will have their scheduled repayments reduced to the minimum required amount from 1 May 2020. CommBank will contact all affected customers in April about the change, and there will be an option to change the repayment amount online.
If you missed your credit card minimum repayment for March, CBA is automatically refunding the late fees and interest for the month of March.
The opportunity to defer scheduled loan repayments on a case by case basis, including interest only.
Existing loan rearranging with the waiver of establishment fees.
Waiving early withdrawal fees for customers who want to withdraw from term deposits, including Farm Management Deposits.
Working capital assistance.
No interest rate increases.
Dealing with credit card debt
If you're worried about paying off your credit cards in these uncertain times, you could move your debt to a balance transfer credit card. These cards charge 0% interest for an introductory period that can last up to 26 months. By paying no interest, you could save and pay off your debt faster.
If you have more than one debt, you can also move multiple debts under one new account with a balance transfer. At the end of the 0% promotional period, any remaining balance will start attracting interest. So it's wise to pay off your debt before interest applies to get the most value out of a balance transfer.
Some balance transfer credit cards charge annual fees and balance transfer fees (which are usually around 1.5%-2% of your transfer amount). You should also check that you have a good credit score and meet the card's eligibility criteria before you apply. If you want to learn more, check out our guide on managing your credit card during the coronavirus pandemic.
During COVID-19 your budget may be stretched, and this can make it difficult if you have debt to repay. If you have unsecured debt that you're looking to consolidate, you have a few options available to you. One option is an unsecured personal loan. This is an option to consider if you have multiple lines of credit that you want to combine to reduce what you're paying in interest and fees. It can also make your repayments more manageable.
Unsecured personal loans can be used to consolidate personal loans, lines of credit and even credit cards. To make sure this is the right option for you, calculate what you're paying across all of your debts each month and then check what you'd pay if you consolidated your debt into a new debt consolidation personal loan. If the new amount is lower, it might be an option you want to consider.
Something else to keep in mind before applying for an unsecured personal loan to consolidate debt is your credit score. Whenever you apply for something like a personal loan it's recorded on your credit report and affects your score. Only apply for a loan once you've decided on the right loan for you and don't make too many applications in a short space of time.
To see if you can freeze your premiums, contact your insurer directly and discuss your options. All health insurers will also be delaying the annual 1 April premium increase for six months so you don't have to worry about paying more for your private health insurance at this difficult time.
Below are some of the energy companies doing their bit for customers and businesses impacted by the virus.
Responding to the Federal Government's call for big businesses to help during this crisis, AGL will accelerate payments to small business suppliers for the next six months, with invoices to be paid within 14 days. This is down from 30 days.
CEO Brett Redman has issued a statement, saying that, "For any small supplier who isn't getting paid within the 14 days, we urge you to get in touch." AGL will be implementing the changes within two weeks from 11 March.
Below is a summary of all the actions Origin Energy are currently putting in place to support customers:
Encouraging customers, where possible, to use Origin's website or mobile app to manage their enquiries due to longer than usual wait times on phone lines.
Prioritising assistance for the most vulnerable customers, including those with life support needs, and those who need their energy supply reconnected.
Customers who are experiencing difficulty paying their bills can request a payment extension online.
Origin's ardship program will continue to provide support to customers who are experiencing payment difficulty through services like tailored payment plans.
They have also temporarily suspended disconnections for customers for non-payment.
Due to the increase in people working from home, a handful of Internet providers have announced made financial help more available to those impacted by COVID-19.
Vodafone has encouraged those who have been financially impacted both directly or indirectly by COVID-19 to get into contact with them to discuss flexible options that are available. This includes arranging payment plans, payment extensions and possibly waiving late payment or collection fees. You can fill out their financial hardship application online or give Vodafone a call on 1300 650 405 between 8am-8pm from Monday to Friday.
Aussie Broadband has already implemented a temporary stop to all service suspensions due to late payments. They've also offered additional financial hardship assistance to customers, from formulating payment plans as well as more tailored individual solutions for customers who are experiencing financial difficulties. They've asked that you contact them via the MyAussie app as it's expected their phone lines will be seeing longer wait times due to increased demand.
Telstra is scrapping late fees and disconnections for small businesses and consumers who aren't able to pay their bills. They're currently offering this until the end of April, but have said they plan to review this matter further as the crisis continues. Call 13 22 00 (Monday to Friday, 8am – 5pm) and say "financial hardship" to discuss your options with a Telstra representative. You can also fill in a payment extension form here. You can also get help through their Support centre or via the My Telstra or Telstra 24x7 app.
All Telstra's personal and small business post-paid mobile and mobile broadband customers can register for an extra 25GB of data at no extra charge by 19 April 2020. You can register via the My Telstra apps until 19 April 2020. The data will be made available within 48 hours. From Thursday 19 March until 30 April 2020, they are also providing unlimited data for personal and small business customers with home broadband plans (ADSL, nbn and cable). The data will be provided to you automatically at no extra charge.
Optus has echoed this by waiving late payment fees and stopping disconnection and credit collection activities until April 30. They're allowing their customers, including small businesses, the ability to put their postpaid mobile plan on hold.
Whilst other Internet and mobile providers haven't released any specific financial hardship policies in relation to COVID-19, many of them do have programs in place to help you if you're going through a rough patch, so it's still worth a quick investigation on your provider's website.
Internet and mobile providers have also announced bonus data offers in order to ease the transition to working from home and self-isolation at home.
In times of extreme financial hardship it is possible to access between $1,000-$10,000 of your superannuation. On 22 March 2020, the federal government announced that those affected by the coronavirus and experiencing financial difficulty, could access their super and withdraw up to $10,000. Unlike previous financial hardship withdrawals from super, this will not be taxed. However, accessing your super early comes with a number of risks and is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Read our guide on this legislation to see if you're eligible to access your super early and what to consider before doing so.
National stimulus packages
In order to soften the blow of the coronavirus crisis on the economy, the Australian federal government is announcing stimulus packages regularly.
$1.3b in support payments to keep apprentices in work. The Government will offer up to $7,000 per apprentice per quarter to keep them in work. The measure will support around 70,000 small businesses employing approximately 117,000 apprentices. Find out more about how to apply and eligibility by contacting an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network provider here.
JobKeeper subsidies. Workers that have lost their job or had hours reduced as a result of coronavirus may be eligible for the government's fortnightly JobKeeper payment of $1,500, paid through their employer. Find out more about eligibility here. Employers can register to apply for the JobKeeper Payment from 30 March 2020 on The Australian Taxation Office.
Low-income earners will receive $750 cash. All welfare recipients and concession card holders will receive the payment, including 2.4 million pensioners and those with a commonwealth seniors card. This will come into effect from 31 March 2020. It should be automatically added to your welfare payment.
Businesses will be allowed to defer tax obligations. The Australian Taxation Office announced that it will offer relief to those hit hard by the downturn on a case-by-case basis. Contact the ATO on 1800 806 218 or visit their website here for further information.
Changes to the pension deeming rate. Payment recipients whose income is assessed using deeming could receive up to $1,612 extra a year (for couples), and up to fortnight $1,300 a year (for singles). The extra money will begin to go into people's bank accounts from 1 May.
Boosting cash flow for employers. Up to $25,000 will be given to small and medium-sized businesses, with a minimum payment of $2,000 for eligible businesses. The payment will provide cash flow support to businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million that employ staff and will be tax free. It will benefit around 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people. Businesses don't need to apply - the cash flow boost is a tax free payment and is automatically calculated by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
Assistance for severely affected areas such as tourism, agriculture and education. The Government has also set aside $1 billion to support regions and communities disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of the coronavirus. According to the Business Gov website, the $1 billion will be available for distribution through existing or new mechanisms as soon as practicable.
Increasing the instant asset write-off for businesses. The Government has increased the instant asset write-off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expanded access to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million until 30 June 2020. You can get more information about eligibility and how to apply here.
Backing business investment. The Government has given businesses an incentive to invest by accelerating depreciation deductions. In a nutshell, businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million will be able to deduct 50% of the cost of an eligible asset on installation. Existing depreciation rules will apply to the balance of the asset's cost.This will be in place until 30 June 2021. You can get more information about eligibility here.
A further $750 welfare payment. Some welfare recipients will also receive another $750 payment on July 13. This will be automatically added to your welfare payment.
Small businesses will receive cash payments up to $100,000. This is part of the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure and will be applied for a limited number of activity statement lodgments. The ATO should deliver the payment as a credit to your business upon lodgment of your activity statements.
Guaranteed loans. The government are also guaranteeing unsecured small business loans up to $250,000. This is being offered by many of Australia's major banks, including NAB and Bankwest. No repayments will be required for six months. The unsecured loans are 50 per cent guaranteed by the Federal Government and no interest will be charged unless the money is actually used. Reach out to your bank to see if they are offering the loan.
State and territory governments have been announcing their own stimulus packages as the coronavirus crisis has escalated. We have put together individual guides for those states that have already announced their measures. These pages will be updated with more information as more measures are announced.
If you are facing extreme financial stress in Australia, you may be able to access financial counselling services. Financial counsellors are qualified professionals who provide information, advice and advocacy to people in financial difficulty.
The National Debt Hotline is another free tool available to those who are struggling to pay their debts. Call 1800 007 007 to speak to trained financial counsellors who can offer guidance on your situation.
There are a wide range of apps and websites that exist to help you track your spending. The Finder app can help you as you make plans for the future. Track your spending, see where you can cut down and create budgets you can stick to.
Take care of your mental health
There is a lot of stress and anxiety in the world right now and that can be made worse if you're struggling financially. It's important to know where to get help if you're finding it hard to cope.
If you're experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, try reaching out to Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. You can speak with trained mental health professionals over the phone or through the online forum. Their website also contains excellent information and tools for maintaining good mental health.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or severe emotional distress, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. They are a 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention network.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 000 to get help from emergency services as soon as possible.
Other quick ways to save money
Are you worried about your finances during this time? Don't forget to review your bills - spending a little time on admin, could save you over the weeks and months to come.
Here are some guides on how to save some money on your daily expenses. There are plenty of things you could do, from checking your energy rates, switching to a low-interest credit card, or simply dropping parts of your insurance that you don't need.
Gary Hunter is a writer at Finder, specialising in insurance. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Glasgow and has previously worked for Real Insurance as a content specialist.
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