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Coronavirus: what to do if you're having trouble making ends meet

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With half of Australians very worried about the tough financial times ahead, where can you get financial assistance because of the coronavirus?

One in five Australians say they have no savings and can't afford to not work, according to a survey by comparison site, Mozo.

It found that more than one in four Australians would be personally and financially affected by an aged care facility or daycare shutting down.

coronavirus can't afford to make ends meet

With 30% of Australian workers with no sick leave and an estimated 47% of workers are unable to work remotely, how will people pay their bills?

Emergency one-off relief payments such as the $750 payment to 6.5 million people are being rolled out in Australia to help individuals with the economic impacts of the coronavirus.

In comparison Hong Kong has given all permanent citizens $1200 and New Zealand's recently announced stimulus package gives all people receiving welfare benefits an extra permanent $25 per week as well as wage support and paid self-isolation leave.

New Zealand businesses with revenue that has declined by more than 30% will receive $585 per week for full-time workers and $350 for part-timers.

But some essential services and real estate groups have been slow to give hardship guidance. While some countries are putting in place a ban on evictions because of job losses to avoid mass homelessness, so far there have been no support for people who can't pay their rent.

$750 one-off payment

From March 31 to April 17, 6.5 million Australians will get a one-off payment of $750. To qualify you need to be receiving one of the following payments: age pension, disability support pension, carer payment, parenting payment, wife pension, widow B pension, ABSTUDY (living allowance), Austudy, bereavement allowance, Newstart allowance, youth allowance, partner allowance, sickness allowance, family tax benefit, carer allowance, pensioner concession card holders, Commonwealth seniors health card holders, veteran service pension and farm household allowance.

For example Emma receives both Newstart Allowance and Family Tax Benefit and is eligible for a single payment of $750. Emma does not need to do anything, and this one-off payment will be made to her automatically from March 31.

Relief payment

Tasmania is the first state government to announce one-off emergency relief payments for casual workers and people on low incomes forced to self-isolate. Individuals can receive $250 and $1000 for families forced to self-isolate.

Mortgages and loans

Australian banks and financial services groups have pledged that they are ready to support customers, stressing they should come forward as soon as possible.

The Australian Bankers Association says assistance depends on individual circumstances and includes:

  • A deferral of scheduled loan repayments;
  • Waiving fees and charges;
  • Interest free periods or no interest rate increases;
  • Debt consolidation to help make repayments more manageable. 

What to do

  • Contact your bank or financial service provider;
  • Explain your situation and the assistance you're asking for;
  • If your request is denied, you can contact Australian Financial Complaints Authority for help on 1800 931 678 and visit afca.org.au.

No Interest Loans Scheme

Don't hesitate to apply for a No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) that loans between $300 and $1200 for essential goods and services including medical procedures and dental services, education essentials such as computers and textbooks, car repairs or registration as well as crucial whitegoods such as fridges and washing machines.

NILS doesn't do any credit checks, charge fees or interest. It has repayments set at an affordable amount over 12 to 18 months. It is offered by more than 170 local community organisations in over 625 locations across Australia. To be eligible for NILS you must have a Health Care Card or earn less than $45,000 a year (after tax).

Overhaul your finances

If you haven't workshopped your finances for a while, Mozo recommends that you:

  • Research high interest savings accounts online and opt for one of the sharpest providers on the market;
  • Set up a direct debit to transfer money from your everyday transaction account to your savings account as soon as you've been paid;
  • Set your goal - knowing how much money you're striving to save can make progress all the sweeter as you edge towards that amount;
  • Withdraw cash rather than using a card - this way it's much harder to spend over a set amount;
  • Track your spending - many banks now offer apps that track your spending, enabling you to identify unnecessary purchases and watch your savings grow;
  • Consider refinancing - you could save up to $106k by opting for the most competitive lender on the market compared to the big four.

We're cutting through the confusion to help you manage your money during the coronavirus outbreak. Click here for more on how COVID-19 could affect your job, budget, super and investments.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.
Comments
Nicholas Benson
March 18, 2020 5.34pm

What about sole trader businesses that pay no tax due to low income but have none of the other government payments and therefore receive no assistance? These have been totally forgotten or excluded.

Luke Zelunka
March 22, 2020 11.40pm

Quitting my job at 7 in morning and jumping on the unemployment dole bludging train at Centrelink.

Scumbags get looked after better than the normal hard working Aussie. Scomo needs to go. His as useful as tits on a bull.

Angala Robertson
September 6, 2020 4.23pm

I'm a single parent on a disability pension and I'm renting in the private sector and now the house I was renting has been sold, I'm now having to try and find other accommodation for myself and my young daughter where there are either no houses to rent or the amount of rent is that steep I can't afford to pay. I do not receive any coronavirus stimulus as I'm on a DSP and I have four weeks until we have to be out of the house we currently rent. Just because I'm on a DSP doesn't mean I have savings in the bank. I have a child to raise and it is expensive.

Angala Robertson
September 6, 2020 6.22pm

And trying to get a loan to buy a cheap house for us is impossible as no corporations such as banks will back anyone on a DSP. Apparently I don't receive enough to make the repayments.

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