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 were temporarily changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to allow more people to access government income support payments.  These temporary changes ended on 31 March 2021.

Coronavirus Supplement

The temporary Coronavirus Supplement ended on 31 March 2021. This was an additional payment to people who were receiving various forms of Centrelink income support, such as JobSeeker.

Economic support payments

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

If you claim Family Tax Benefit for 2020-21 as a lump sum you’ll get the payment with your lump sum.  This will be after you have claimed and confirmed your income for the 2020-21 financial year.  You can do this from July 2021.

Generally, you will not be eligible to get the Economic Support Payment if you were getting $1 or more of the Coronavirus Supplement.

Job Keeper

The JobKeeper Payment program ended on 28 March 2021.  The final JobKeeper payments will be processed in April 2021.

With the end of JobKeeper, some people may find that their income has reduced or they have lost their job. If this has happened to you, check if you can get a Centrelink payment at the Centrelink Payment and Service Finder.

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

Rent or mortgage (keeping your shelter)

Rent

Most state and territory governments took action to limit the ability of landlords to evict tenants who were financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes have now ended in most states and territories, and they have instead introduced rules about how any rental arrears accrued during the pandemic can be collected and for how long. For detailed information, see COVID-19 changes: Rent.

Rent remains a high priority payment. 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

During 2020, the banking industry and some other lenders, allowed borrowers to defer payments on mortgages. These loan deferrals, which were provided automatically by the banks, have now ended.

Banks and other home lenders are now assessing what assistance they can provide to people with home loans who continue to be financially impacted by COVID-19 on a case by case basis.

If you cannot afford to return to full repayments, you should talk to your lender as soon as possible to talk through your options and ask them to consider providing further hardship assistance.  This may include reducing your repayments for a period of time, switching to an interest only loan for a period of time, or other options that are suitable for your situation.

If your lender is threatening legal action or is not being reasonable with your request for hardship assistance 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) issued a set of principles about hardship support for people who may have trouble paying their energy, water and rates bills.  The principles include:

  • 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.

On 1 January 2021 the threshold for forced bankruptcy was permanently increased from $5,000 to $10,000.  This means you 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 not have been eligible, 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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