COVID-19 Financial Survival Guide (Overview)

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a challenging time for everyone in Australia (and the world). This is a guide on steps to take and where to find support.

This page is about steps you can take to look after yourself and your family financially during the COVID-19 pandemic

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

This overview provides a step by step approach to the COVID-19 changes.

Note: At the bottom of each section below there will be a link to more detailed information about the above topics.

If you are in financial difficulty, free support is available at the National Debt Helpline: 1800 007 007. You can speak to a financial counsellor and get advice.

Public health and you

Personal and community safety is the highest priority. Please follow public health guidelines in Australia and keep up to date with changes. If you are unwell, stay home and speak to your GP. Try to manage your stress and anxiety by:

  • Keeping in contact socially by phone/text/email/chat/video
  • Exercising regularly and doing activities you enjoy (with safe spatial distancing)
  • Seeking support if you are distressed, from Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636, Lifeline 13 11 14, or your GP

If you are experiencing family violence, call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732; www.1800respect.org.au)  to speak to an experienced counsellor.

Beware of scams:

People may try to take advantage of the current pandemic crisis. If you are unsure about anything someone is trying to sell you, or you feel pressured to make a financial decision, don’t sign or agree to anything.  Check Scamwatch and/or call us.

Emergency financial assistance

If you have no income and/or cannot afford basic necessities, there is help available. You can find your closest service on the Ask Izzy website. You can also call us at the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 and we can give you the details.

For further information, see COVID-19 changes: Emergency Financial Assistance

Government Assistance

It is recommended that you check if you are eligible for government assistance. It is there to help people financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Centrelink payment finder

Check if you can get a Centrelink payment at the Centrelink Payment and Service Finder.

Eligibility changes

A number of eligibility requirements for Centrelink have been temporarily changed in response to the coronavirus. This means you may now be eligible for a Centrelink payment when you may not have been eligible in the past especially if your income or work situation changes because of covid-19. The big changes are:

  • Access to JobSeeker if you’re a sole trader or self employed and your business has been suspended, or suffered a reduction in turnover, due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus.
  • Increase of the income free area to $300 per fortnight for JobSeeker until 31 March 2021.
  • Increase of the partner income test for JobSeeker (how much your partner can earn before it affects eligibility) will be $3,086.11 per fortnight (or $80,238.89 per annum) until 31 March 2021.
  • The Ordinary Waiting Period, Seasonal Work Preclusion Period and the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period will continue to be waived until 31 March 2021.
  • Employment income Nil Payment Period has been extended until 16 April 2021. This means you can have a $0 payment from Centrelink for more than 6 fortnights without them cancelling your payment eligibility. This is particularly important for casual, part-time or contract workers.
Coronavirus Supplement

The Government has increased financial support for a range of people receiving income support as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. A coronavirus supplement (additional payment) is being made in addition to the usual payment until 31 March 2021 for people on eligible income support payments (for example, JobSeeker).

Economic support payments

There were two separate economic support payments of $750 paid to eligible Centrelink recipients in April and July 2020. There will be 2 more Economic Support Payments of $250 for eligible recipients – one to be paid in December 2020 and the other in March 2021.

Job Keeper

If you have been stood down, let go or were still employed as at 1 March and / or 1 July 2020, you may be eligible for JobKeeper. This is more than payments available from Centrelink. Your employer will need to apply and qualify for JobKeeper for any payment to go to you if you are an eligible employee.

You should speak to your employer to check your eligibility and rate of payment.

For further information, see COVID-19 changes: Government Assistance

Rent or mortgage (keeping your shelter)

Rent
Most state and territory governments have taken action to limit the ability of landlords to evict tenants who have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states have also introduced rent relief grants to help tenants experiencing rental hardship due to COVID 19.  For detailed information, see COVID-19 changes: Rent.

Rent remains a high priority payment. Where possible, negotiate a rent reduction. Rent relief schemes are available in many states and territories. Check the scheme’s eligibility requirements and access it if possible. If you are struggling and need support check here for steps to take or speak to one of our financial counsellors on 1800 007 007.

For further information, see COVID-19 changes: Rent.

 

Home Mortgage
Most banks and home lenders have announced assistance for people with home loans, including deferring mortgage repayments. The interest and fees on your loan, however, will keep being added to the amount of the loan, which means your loan will get bigger and it will take you longer to pay it off.

If you can afford to pay (even a small amount), it is a good idea to do that. Do talk to your lender and make a repayment arrangement you can afford.  Your home loan (being your shelter) is a high priority payment.  This means you should pay as much as possible.

It is also likely that most home loan providers will not proceed to sell people’s homes if they have defaulted on repayments during the current pandemic.

If your lender is threatening legal action call one of our financial counsellors immediately on 1800 007 007 for advice.

For further information, see COVID-19 changes: Home loans

Utilities and Rates

The National Cabinet (the Heads of Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments) have announced the following principles to apply to utility companies and council rates:

  • Offering flexible payment options to all households in financial distress
  • Not disconnecting or restricting supply to those in financial stress
  • Deferring debt recovery proceedings and credit default listings
  • Waiving late fees and interest charges on debt
  • Minimising planned outages for critical works and for households and businesses to be given as much notice as possible planned outage

For further information, see COVID-19 changes: Utilities, telcos and rates

Payment priorities

Prioritise payments for needs, which include shelter, food and utilities.

You will need to prioritise some payments and debts over others. For a step by step guide see Prioritise your debts.

Your priority debts or payments are:

  • food/water
  • rent or mortgage payments (so you have somewhere to live)
  • council rates or body corporate fees
  • loan payments for a car that is essential for getting to work, transporting children, getting essential goods or attending medical appointments
  • utilities – gas; electricity; water

You may have some difficult financial decisions to make if your income falls. If at all possible, avoid letting your largest debts get bigger as when the pandemic is over you might struggle to recover.

For further information, see Prioritise your debts

Making repayment arrangements

Do contact your creditors’ hardship departments if you are going to struggle to make repayments. A range of information is available on this website setting out the steps to make a repayment arrangement.

Do tell your creditor that you have been affected by the pandemic and explain how

Do keep talking to your creditor when you need to.  The financial impact of the pandemic may be long lasting for you and many other people.

Do keep making repayments you can afford. If you are prioritising other payments like food or shelter explain this.

Do ask for interest and fees to be removed or reduced (particularly if you are in very difficult situation)

For further information, see COVID-19 changes: Making repayment arrangements

Bankruptcy

From 25 March 2020 to 31 December 2020 there were a number of temporary measures in place to protect people from being forced into bankruptcy. These measures ended on 1 January 2021.

Also on 1 January 2021 a new permanent bankruptcy threshold of $10,000 came into effect. Prior to 25 March 2020 the threshold was $5,000. This means you now cannot be issued with a Bankruptcy Notice or forced into bankruptcy by your creditors if the debt owed is less than $10,000.

For further information, see COVID-19 changes: Bankruptcy

If you accessed your superannuation early

From 20 April 2020, some people financially affected by COVID-19 were allowed to access some of their super early. Up to $10,000 could be accessed before 30 June 2020 and a further amount up to $10,000 could be accessed from 1 July 2020 to 31 December 2020. Applications for these funds are now closed.

If you have applied for your super when you may have been ineligible, see COVID-19 If you accessed your super early (eligibility issues).

 

Speak to one of our financial counsellors

If your problem still hasn’t been solved, or you’re feeling overwhelmed, call us on 1800 007 007 to speak with one of our financial counsellors.

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