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

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. For people who DO NOT receive any Centrelink Payments – The Commonwealth Government has introduced various payments for people affected by COVID. There is a COVID-19 Disaster Payment to help people who have lost income due to a COVID-19 lockdown, hotspot declaration or period of restricted movements. There is also a Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for people who have to isolate or quarantine. Each payment has eligibility criteria.
  2. For people who DO receive a Centrelink payment – From 29 July 2021, there is the COVID-19 Disaster Payment – NSW supplement for people who have a Centrelink income support payment but have lost hours of work and income due to a COVID-19 lockdown, hotspot declaration or period of restricted movements.
  3. If you are a sole trader in NSW and you’ve been impacted by the recent COVID-19 restrictions, you may be eligible to receive the NSW Government 2021 COVID-19 JobSaver payment of $1,000 per week.
  4. The Commonwealth Government has committed extra funding for emergency relief funds to charities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  5. State and Territory Governments have committed extra funds to assist with financial support.
  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.

 

Energy bill relief – Victoria

Victorians can access grants to help pay overdue utility bills.

You must have an eligible concession card, such as a pension, healthcare or veteran’s affairs gold card.

If you don’t have one of these cards but are part of a low-income household, you may also be able to apply.

The grant is valued at up to $650 on each utility bill, with a separate application for each service (electricity, gas and water).

To request an application, the Victorian government advises contacting your utility retailer(s).

Your retailer(s) will ask you some questions to check if you are eligible before issuing a form.

The grant is available to renters and homeowners.

 

Energy bill relief – NSW

EAPA Vouchers:

If you live in NSW and you’re having difficulty paying your current household energy bill because of a short-term financial crisis or emergency, such as unexpected medical bills, or reduced income due to COVID-19, you could be eligible for Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) Scheme vouchers.

The EAPA Scheme provides a maximum value of $800 in vouchers, or credits to your energy account, every 12-month period, or $400 every 6 months, for each utility (electricity and gas).

EAPA vouchers involves an eligibility assessment, and the vouchers cannot be used to put your energy account into credit, on closed accounts or if your account has already been paid.

Before you apply for EAPA vouchers you must first have spoken to your energy retailer(s) about your hardship and be on a hardship plan.

The EAPA scheme is available to renters and homeowners.

You can apply online, if you are the account holder, through Service NSW here.

PAS Vouchers:

If you live in NSW, and you are having difficulty paying your Hunter Water, Sydney Water or Shoalhaven Water bill, you could be eligible for Water Payment Assistance Scheme (PAS) vouchers.

This scheme can help if you’re experiencing financial hardship by providing credit to your water account.

The PAS scheme is available to you if you are a homeowner or are a tenant who pays your own water usage (you have your own meter).

You should speak to your water provider first about your hardship and to check your eligibility before applying for PAS.

Many community welfare organisations offer PAS.  Find out more about the scheme and where to find a PAS Agency here.

For more information about utilities, telcos and rates, see COVID-19 changes: Utilities, Telcos and Rates


Rent assistance – NSW

On 13 July 2021, the NSW Government announced a 60-day freeze on evictions of residential tenants financially impacted by the recent COVID-19 lockdowns and who cannot meet their rent payments.

The moratorium period commenced on 14 July 2021 and will end on 11 September 2021.  During this time, eligible COVID-impacted residential tenants will be protected from eviction if they have:

  • contacted their landlord or agent and given them notice that they are an impacted tenant;
  • provided evidence that the household’s take home weekly income has reduced by 25% or more; and
  • continue to pay at least 25% of the rent payable.

It is important to get any agreement made in writing.

After 11 September 2021, if a tenant is behind in paying the rent due under the agreement, the landlord will be able to take termination action in accordance with the usual termination provisions in the Act.

More information about the residential tenancy support package is here.

If an agreement can’t be made you can contact your nearest Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service for free information and advice.  To find your nearest Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service in NSW, visit www.tenants.org.au or call the Tenants’ Advice Line on 1800 251 101.

For more information about rent, see COVID-19 changes: Rent

 

Bank loan deferrals

Australia’s banks have announced a support package available to small businesses and home loan customers affected by continuing COVID-19 lockdowns or those recovering from recent lockdowns.

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

Commonwealth Government Assistance

Whether or not you are already receiving an income support payment from Centrelink, if you have lost income due to a COVID-19 lockdown, hotspot declaration or period of restricted movement, you may be eligible to receive a COVID-19 payment from the Commonwealth Government.

Some of the payments that are available include:

  • COVID-19 Disaster Payment
  • COVID-19 Disaster Payment – NSW supplement
  • Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment
  • Centrelink COVID-19 Crisis Payment

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.

COVID-19 and Small Business

If you are a sole trader in NSW and you’ve been impacted by the recent COVID-19 restrictions, you may be eligible to receive the NSW Government 2021 COVID-19 JobSaver payment of $1,000 per week.

You CAN’T get the COVID-19 Disaster Payment and the JobSaver payment at the same time.  If you want to apply for the NSW JobSaver payment, you need to decide which is best for you.

For more details on eligibility and to make a claim see NSW JobSaver Payment.

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 you may not qualify for JobSeeker or JobKeeper. 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 program can provide a one-off emergency relief payment to people who:

  • are not Australian citizens or permanent residents
  • are in urgent financial hardship
  • cannot access Centrelink, Medicare or similar services
  • have no income, savings or other financial support (including from family overseas)

The Red Cross may be able to provide direct financial support to meet your most urgent needs for example: food, utility bill, medical expenses and shelter (rent).

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

Temporary residents may also be able to access emergency relief. See “Food and Bills” above.

International students
International students should check with their university 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
Details on 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

Details on assistance available can be accessed by calling the NSW Government COVID-19 hotline 13 77 88 or using the Service NSW COVID-19 Assistance Finder.

Northern Territory residents
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
Details of assistance available can be accessed at QLD Government Support for Workers affected by COVID-19.

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
$450 COVID-19 Test Isolation Payment:  Victorian workers can apply for a $450 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Isolation Payment that provides financial support while they self-isolate to wait for the results of a coronavirus (COVID-19) test.  More information about eligibility and how to apply here.
Details of other assistance available can be accessed at Service Victoria COVID-19.

Western Australia
Details of assistance available can be accessed at WA Government COVID-19.

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.

If you’d prefer to chat to a financial counsellor online, you can use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen.

Live chat is available 9:30am-4:30pm weekdays. You can send a message outside these hours and a financial counsellor will get back to you.

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