Where to get financial support if money is tight during lockdown
With more than half of the nation's population now in lockdown, a growing number of Australians are under financial strain, experts warn.
"Over 13 million Aussies don't have a savings buffer, a lot of people are living pay packet to pay packet," says financial counsellor Kylie Holford.
While many Australians don't have any wiggle room in their budget to weather a financial crisis, help is at hand, Holford says.
"There's always someone you can speak to," she says.
"Don't be too proud to ask for some advice, especially during a pandemic, there's no judgment or blame."
Australians need to be proactive when it comes to keeping the power on and a roof over heads, she says.
"That could mean negotiating with the real estate or landlord, with the bank, or the power company."
Those experiencing financial hardship should also reach out to their bank.
The big four banks have offered support measures including allowing you to access money in your home loan redraw, restructuring your home loan, switching to a fixed-rate home loan, and reducing your repayments to the minimum monthly repayment amounts.
There's really no downside to accessing these facilities.
"If you enter into a hardship arrangement, and provided you are keeping your end of the deal, your credit score won't be affected," says Holford.
"If you're unable to make repayments, make contact as soon as you can because the banks will work with you."
Here, Holford recommends directly contacting the banks' hardship teams rather than the main number.
Finally, of course, it's worth signing up for the government's support packages if you qualify.
The disaster relief payment is $375 for those who have lost up to 20 hours of work, while the payment for people who have lost more than 20 hours of work has increased from $500 to $600.
They apply to anyone who can't attend work and have lost income on or after day eight of a COVID-19 restriction of movement, doesn't have access to appropriate paid leave entitlements through your employer, isn't getting an income support payment, ABSTUDY Living Allowance, Dad and Partner Pay or Parental Leave Pay, and isn't getting a state or territory pandemic payment, Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment or state small business payment for the same period.
To apply, you'll need a MyGov account linked to a Centrelink online account. More information can be found on the Services Australia website here.
Holford also urges people to get in touch with Service NSW.
Among other services, offers the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS), which provides up to $1500 interest-free for essential goods and services. There are no fees involved, and repayments are arranged over 12 to 18 months.
Finally, you can contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.
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