COVID -19 changes: Emergency financial assistance

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a challenging time for everyone in Australia (and the world). This is a guide to the financial assistance that you can access if you are struggling to meet your basic needs. Information is also included on emergency assistance for temporary residents.

This page is about steps you can take to look after yourself and your family financially during the COVID-19 pandemic
Read an overview of emergency assistance here.

Information on this page:
Please click the links below to visit each section

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This page summarises financial assistance for people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has information about getting help with food and bills, Commonwealth Government Financial Assistance, the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) and Household Relief Loans Without Interest. There is also information about assistance for temporary residents, who may not qualify for the main government support measures, as well as what help is available in each state and territory.

Six changes you need to know about

  1. The COVID-19 Disaster Payment claiming periods have closed and the payment is no longer available.
  2. From 10 January 2022, people who are unable to earn income because they must self-isolate or quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 test (themselves, a close contact, or someone they care for) may be eligible to claim a Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment of $750 for each seven-day period. This payment is available to both Australian residents and those who hold a visa that gives them the right to work in Australia.
  3. Some State and Territory Governments are also providing a COVID-19 Test and Isolate Support Payment to residents who need to self-isolate and are unable to work while waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test.
  4. Australian banks are still providing support to small business and home loan customers that continue to be affected by COVID-19 restrictions or are recovering from recent lockdowns.
  5. If you are a sole trader or small business and you’ve been adversely impacted by recent COVID-19 lockdowns, travel restrictions or global supply chain disruptions you may be eligible to receive financial assistance from your State or Territory government.
  6. Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments have committed funds to assist temporary residents.

What do the changes mean?

It means that if you are struggling, it is worth checking what financial assistance is available to help you.

Food and bills

Across Australia there are more than 1300 outlets for emergency relief run by charities and community organisations.

If you need help urgently with living expenses, charities can help you with:

  • food, transport or chemist vouchers
  • rent or accommodation
  • part-payment of electricity, gas or water bills
  • food parcels or clothing
  • budgeting or referrals to other programs.

You can find your closest service on the Ask Izzy website.

The level of assistance available for electricity, gas or water bills varies between states and territories. Please see State and Territory Government Assistance below to find out what assistance may be available to you.

There are also special protections and assistance measures in place for people who may be having trouble paying their energy, water, phone, internet and rates bills.

For more information see COVID-19 changes: Utilities, Telcos and Rates

Commonwealth Government Assistance

COVID-19 federal government financial assistance has changed to reflect the easing of movement restrictions and the changing testing, isolation and close contact regulations across the country.
If you or your family are affected by COVID-19 you may be eligible to receive a payment.

Some of the payments that are available include:

  • Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment
  • Centrelink COVID-19 Crisis Payment
  • Centrelink Crisis Payment

Please note:  the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is now also available to people who are on temporary visas who have a visa with rights to work in Australia.

Some States are also providing a one-off payment for eligible people who need to quarantine and cannot work while awaiting a COVID-19 test result.  For example:

  • ACT COVID19 Hardship Payment
  • SA COVID-19 Cluster Isolation Payment
  • NSW COVID-19 Test and Isolate Payment
  • VIC COVID-19 Test Isolation Payment

Please note:  You may not be eligible to receive the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment if, during your isolation period, you got or will get a COVID-19 test / isolation payment.  You need to decide which payment is best for you before applying.

You should apply for all of the government assistance payments you may be eligible for.

For more information about Government Assistance see COVID19 changes: Government Assistance.

Bank loan deferrals

Australia’s banks have support available to small businesses and home loan customers who continue to be financially impacted by COVID-19.

The support is only available on application (so it’s best to call your bank to discuss your situation and access the support you need).

Home loan support:

Banks will consider repayment deferrals on a month-by-month basis. This is available to both individual and business customers.

Business banking repayment deferrals:

Business loan repayment deferrals of up to three months are available to small and medium enterprises.  These are only for loans where repayments are up to date or the business is already engaged in a payment arrangement with their bank.

If this situation does not apply to you, it is still worth talking to your bank to discuss what other options you might have.

Everyday banking support for businesses:

Includes refunds of merchant terminal fees for up to three months.  The banks have also offered to waive fees and notice periods on cash deposit and farm management deposit accounts for up to three months.

To apply for support, call your bank or contact them online.

For more information about home loans, see COVID-19 changes: Home Loans

COVID-19 and Sole Traders

If you are a sole trader, or small business, and you’ve experienced a reduction in your income from the recent COVID-19 lockdowns, travel restrictions or global supply chain disruptions, you may be eligible to receive financial support from your State or Territory government.

Support packages vary from state to state and will depend on a number of factors including the restrictions in place, industry sector, and the level of lost income.

Find COVID-19 financial support for small business in your state or territory here.

No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS)

NILS provides no-interest loans for essential goods and services (such as fridges and washing machines, health-care items, or car repairs). For example, if a fridge costs $800 all you would pay back is $800.

To be eligible, you must have a Centrelink health-care card or pension card (or qualify for one). You must also show that you can, and are willing to, repay the loan within 12 or 18 months. More about NILS.

Household Relief Loans Without Interest

Household Relief Loans Without Interest are now available for people impacted by COVID-19.

Loans are available for amounts between $300 and up to $3,000. The loan is repayable over 24 months. Loan repayments are made by direct debit or through Centrepay. There is no interest, fees or other costs. There are no credit checks in the application or approval process.

Loans are not for cash – they are to pay rent or a rental bond (to a real estate agent, not a private landlord), utility bills, body corporate fees and council rates.

You may be eligible for a Household Relief Loan without interest if you:

  • Are 16 years or over
  • Are an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or hold a valid visa that expires after the loan term
  • Have a before tax annual income of less than $60,000 if you are single, or less than $100,000 for couples or people with dependents
  • Have lost your job, had your income reduced, moved onto Centrelink payments after March 2020 or been otherwise financially impacted by Covid-19
  • Have reduced income if you’re self-employed

To check your eligibility and find out more here

No Interest Loans for women affected by family and domestic violence (FDV NILS)

No Interest Loans are available to help women who have experienced or are experiencing family or domestic violence to move to safety, stay at home securely, and rebuild their lives after family and domestic violence.

Loans of up to $2,000 are available.  The loan is repayable over 24 months and there is no interest, fees or other costs.

Loans are not for cash – they are available to pay for specific things such as rent or a rental bond, utility bills, security items, removalist and transport costs, furniture and whitegoods, legal costs, car registration and repairs, and technology, such as a laptop.

To check your eligibility and find out more here.

Temporary residents

If you are a temporary resident / temporary visa holder or do not have a visa with work rights, you may not qualify for Centrelink income support payments. This may leave you in severe financial hardship if you have lost your income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Red Cross – Emergency Relief for people on Temporary Visas
The Emergency Relief and Extreme Hardship Support programs, that provided one-off direct financial support to temporary visa holders experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19, are now closed.

Red Cross is currently only processing the remaining applications placed before 1 December 2021.  However, Red Cross will continue to receive applications for support from temporary visa holders, people seeking asylum, and those with uncertain visa status, via the Red Cross Client Portal only.  Applications will be assessed based on eligibility criteria of any funding still available in the respective states and territories.

There is more information including how to apply here.

If you are worried that you do not have the right documents or need assistance with your online application, call Red Cross on 1800 733 276 between 9:30am and 4:30pm AEST Monday to Friday.


Red Cross – Family and Domestic Violence Financial Assistance Program

The program can provide financial support to people who are:

  • not Australian citizens or Permanent Residents, and
  • experiencing or at risk of family and domestic violence, and
  • experiencing financial hardship.

The Red Cross may be able to provide direct financial support of up to $3,000 to those eligible to help cover expenses such as accommodation, food and medical care.  They can also support referrals to specialist services.

There is more information, including how to apply, here.

If you need support to complete your application, call Red Cross on 1800 733 276 between 9:30am and 4:30pm AEST Monday to Friday.


Assisted Returns Program
The Australian Government – Department of Home Affairs may be able to provide eligible temporary visa holders with financial assistance to leave Australia voluntarily and return home under the Assisted Returns Program.

You might be able to get assistance to return home if you:

  • are living in Australia on a bridging visa or another type of temporary visa
  • are living in Australia without a visa or your visa has expired
  • arrived by boat or plane without a valid visa.

To check your eligibility and find out more here Assisted Returns Program.


Emergency assistance
Temporar residents may be able to access emergency relief for help with living expenses from charities and community organisations . See Food and Bills.

Some state and territory governments are also providing additional emergency relief to help temporary visa holders and international students during COVID-19.  See State and Territory Government Assistance.


International students
International students should check with their university or college about whether it provides any assistance or what other assistance may be available for their State or Territory.


Migrants
Migrants should check with a migrant resource centre for other assistance that may be available.

State and Territory Government assistance

It is worth keeping up to date with financial assistance measures that may be available to support individuals and households in your State or Territory.  Click on the relevant link below to find out more.

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT Government is providing a range of additional financial assistance to help individuals waiting for a COVID-19 test result, businesses, temporary visa holders, and residential tenants during COVID.

Details on all assistance available can be accessed by calling the ACT Government COVID-19 helpline on 02 6207 7244 or at ACT Government COVID-19 Support

New South Wales

The NSW Government is providing additional financial assistance and support to help individuals waiting for a COVID-19 test result, businesses, landlords and tenants who have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions and are experiencing financial difficulty.

Details on all assistance available can be accessed by calling the NSW Government COVID-19 hotline 13 77 88 or at NSW Government COVID-19 Support Package

Northern Territory

Details on assistance available can be accessed by calling the NT COVID-19 hotline 1800 490 484 or at NT Government COVID-19 Wellbeing Support.

Queensland

The QLD Government is providing a range of financial assistance to individuals.  See QLD Government COVID-19 Support for more information.

South Australia

Details of assistance available can be accessed by calling the SA COVID-19 Information line on 1800 253 787 or at SA Government COVID-19 Support.

Tasmania

Details of assistance available can be accessed by calling the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 or at Tasmanian Government COVID-19 Financial Services and Support.

There is more information here for temporary visa holders, including about Pandemic Isolation Assistance Grants and other emergency relief and assistance.

Victoria

The Victorian Government is providing additional financial assistance and support to help individuals waiting for a COVID-19 test result, businesses, landlords and tenants who have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions and are experiencing financial difficulty.

Details on all assistance available can be accessed at Service Victoria COVID-19.

Western Australia

The WA government offers a range of rebates, concessions and financial assistance to individuals to help meet the cost of certain household bills and other essential services.   See WA Government – ConcessionsWA for more information.

Speak to one of our financial counsellors

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help in dealing with your financial stress, please contact one of our financial counsellors.

Financial counsellors aren’t judgemental about your circumstances – they’re here to offer you free, confidential and independent support and advice.

To speak to a financial counsellor you can:

  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.  The National Debt Helpline is available 9:30 am to 4:30 pm weekdays.
  • Use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen.  Live chat is available 9:30am to 4:30pm weekdays. If you send a message outside these hours a financial counsellor will get back to you during operating hours.
  • Make an appointment to see a financial counsellor in your local area.  Find a local financial counsellor on this map.