COVID-19 Financial Survival Guide

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 in the Covid-19 pandemic.

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 to 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

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 anything.  Check Scamwatch and/or call us.

01

Emergency relief

If you have no income and/or cannot afford basic necessities, there is help available. You can find your closest service on the Department of Social Services website at dss.gov.au. Click on emergency relief or call us at the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 and we can give you the details.

02

Centrelink support

Note: Centrelink procedures and eligibility are changing often. Check Services Australia for information.

 

Applying for Centrelink

If your income has decreased below a certain amount or you are now unemployed, you can apply for income support through Centrelink. You can find more information about applying for income support on the Services Australia website. You can submit a claim for income support by linking your Centrelink online account to your MyGov account.

Tips when applying for Centrelink:

  • You need to lodge a claim online.
  • If this is your first time claiming Centrelink you can lodge an intent to claim online. You can also call Centrelink to get:
    • a linking code to link Centrelink to MyGov and
    • a Centrelink Customer Reference Number and
    • Provide identification online
  • You will need an employment separation certificate if you are now unemployed. After 27 April 2020, this requirement will be temporarily suspended.
  • You need bank account statements for the last three months.
  • The application process online through MyGov can be difficult. Be patient, read the questions carefully and if you need to, ask a person you can trust for support. If you need more support contact Centrelink.

 

Eligibility

From 27 April 2020, the following eligibility requirements WILL NOT be required for six months:

  • the assets test
  • the Ordinary Waiting Period (already waived until 12 June 2020)
  • the Liquid Assets Waiting Period
  • the Seasonal Workers Preclusion Period
  • the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period

 

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) of $550 per fortnight will be made in addition to the usual payment for the next six months for people receiving:

  • JobSeeker Payment (previously called Newstart Allowance)
  • Sickness Allowance
  • Youth Allowance for jobseekers
  • Parenting Payment Partnered
  • Parenting Payment Single
  • Partner Allowance
  • Farm Household Allowance
  • Youth allowance for students
  • Austudy for students
  • ABSTUDY for students
  • Special benefit

 

Two economic support payments

There will be two economic support payments of $750 to eligible social security recipients. The first payment will be on 31 March 2020 and the second on 10 July 2020. The eligibility requirements vary. Check here for details.

03

Rent or mortgage (keeping your shelter)

Rent

State and Territory governments may soon take action to prevent evictions. Keep up to date by watching for announcements.

Rent remains a high priority payment. Even with relief it can be difficult to catch up. 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.

 

Mortgage

A number of the banks have announced assistance for people with home loans, including deferring mortgage loan payments, sometimes for up to six months. The interest on your loan, however, will keep being added, so this means that the loan term will be extended.

Generally, if you can afford to pay even a small amount, it is a good idea to do that. It also maintains a habit of repayment.

It is also likely that most home loan providers will not proceed to sell people’s homes for default in the current pandemic.

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

04

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
  • car payments for a car that is essential for work, children, getting essential goods or medical appointments
  • energy and water

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

05

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

Do ask for interest to be removed or reduced for smaller loans (particularly if your circumstances are very difficult)

 

TIP – Debt collection

The Government has announced a plan to make a temporary change (for six months) to the rules for making a person bankrupt. The debt claimed must be more than $20,000 to force a person into bankruptcy.

06

Early access to your superannuation

The government announced on 22 March 2020 that it would allow early access to your superannuation for an amount up to $10,000 before 1 July 2020 and a further amount up to $10,000 after 1 July 2020. You will have about three months from 1 July to apply for this second payment.

 

TIP – Your superannuation is your retirement savings. Carefully consider whether you need the early access now.

No tax is payable on the withdrawals and the money withdrawn will not impact Centrelink or Veteran’s Affairs payments.

The eligibility criteria are:

  • you are unemployed; or
  • you are eligible to receive a job seeker payment, youth allowance for jobseekers, parenting payment (which includes the single and partnered payments), special benefit or farm household allowance; or
  • on or after 1 January 2020: you were made redundant; or your working hours were reduced by 20 per cent or more; or if you are a sole trader — your business was suspended or there was a reduction in your turnover of 20% or more.

You can apply to the ATO through MyGov from mid- April 2020. You will need evidence you meet the eligibility criteria.

07

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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