Where to find financial support during a COVID-19 lockdown

ELLIE MCLACHLAN
The ongoing lockdown has been extended until at least 30 July in Greater Sydney, with restrictions blocking many workers from attending their usual job, while Melbourne is in the midst of a five-day snap lockdown. In response, the Australian Government and some banks have put financial assistance measures in place.
Financial support June COVID lockdowns
The big four banks have financial support options available to customers impacted by COVID-19. Image: Wade Machin/Shutterstock.com.

ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac have announced financial support options for residents and businesses impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns. Other banks are jumping on board too, offering assistance to customers in NSW and Victoria.

APRA has also stepped in, providing regulatory relief to assist authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs) in supporting their customers through this period. For eligible borrowers who are granted a repayment deferral of up to three months before the end of August, ADIs will not need to treat the period of deferral as a period of arrears or a loan restructuring.

There will also be a financial assistance payment of up to $600 available to some NSW and Victorian residents from the Australian Government.

Whether you bank with the big four or elsewhere, in Sydney, Melbourne or another location in lockdown, it could be worthwhile touching base with your financial institutions – from banks to utilities providers to insurers – to see what relief they may be able to provide at this time. Suncorp (including AAMI, Apia and GIO), for instance, is offering car insurance customers lower premiums for reduced vehicle use.

Here are the details of what’s available from the government and the big four banks.

How to get the COVID-19 Disaster Payment

If you live in Sydney or Greater Sydney

Residents living in parts of Sydney and Greater Sydney, or people who visited Sydney during the relevant periods and were subject to restricted movement, may be eligible for the Australian Government’s COVID-19 Disaster Payment if they lost income during the lockdown restrictions in June and July. To apply for a payment, residents need to claim online via their myGov account linked to a Centrelink online account, and eligible visa holders need to call the emergency information line on 180 22 66.

People who lost less than 20 hours of work at the start of their first or second lockdown period could receive $325 each per lockdown period, and those who lost 20 hours of work or more could receive $500 each per lockdown period. Those impacted by lockdown from 15 July in parts of Sydney and 18 July in parts of Greater Sydney may be eligible for higher payments of $375 if they lost between eight and 20 hours of work per week or a full day of usual work hours, while those who lost 20 hours or more of work could receive $600.

People must meet all the government’s eligibility criteria to receive the payments, including having liquid assets (e.g. savings in a bank account) of less than $10,000 and losing income from a period of COVID-19 movement restrictions (such as a lockdown) that lasts more than a week. You also generally aren’t eligible if you’re already getting certain other government payments, such as a state-based pandemic payment. The $10,000 liquid asset rule has been waived for anyone claiming for the period starting from 8 July for parts of Sydney and 11 July for Greater Sydney.

Check the general eligibility rules and the NSW eligibility rules to see if your area is eligible to receive the COVID-19 Disaster Payment.

If you live in Victoria

The Australian Government has announced that the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will be made available to eligible individuals in Victoria. If people have lost at least eight but less than 20 hours of work during the period of lockdown, they could be eligible for a payment of $375, and those who lost 20 or more hours of work could be eligible for a $600 payment.

The $10,000 liquid assets test will not be applied to eligibility for these payments.

The Services Australia website will be updated with information on eligibility for the payments in Victoria “soon”.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s office said the payments would be made “in arrears on application to Services Australia” seven days after the commencement of the lockdown (that being from Friday, 23 July).

What support are banks offering?

The Australian Banking Association encourages anyone experiencing financial difficulty due to COVID-19 to contact their bank as soon as possible to discuss the options for assistance, which may include waiving fees and restructuring loans. This is what the country’s four largest banks are doing to support their customers:

ANZ

ANZ Group Executive Australia Retail and Commercial Banking, Mark Hand, said the bank was standing by to provide support for customers’ specific needs. The help available to ANZ’s retail customers includes short-term payment relief, waiving of fees, restructuring home loan debt and the option to switch to a fixed rate home loan.

Business customers can also access short-term payment relief on loans and some fees.

ANZ’s call centre for those experiencing financial difficulty is available to call on 1800 252 845.

Commonwealth Bank

Commonwealth Bank CEO Matt Comyn said he would encourage anyone who banks with CBA and is facing difficulties to get in touch to find out what support measures may be available. The bank’s COVID-19 support package for retail customers impacted by recent pandemic-related restrictions is as follows:

  • Two month home loan deferral for impacted customers, especially in Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown
  • Extension of the freeze on foreclosures from September 2021 until at least February 2022, for owner-occupier customers who have made their repayments on time for at least 12 months prior to the deferral but who are again unable to make their full repayments
  • Short-term repayment deferrals
  • Accessing money you may have available in your redraw facility on your eligible loan
  • Restructuring your home loan debt
  • Switching to a fixed rate home loan
  • Reducing your repayments to the minimum monthly repayment amount
  • Using money in your Everyday Offset account (if available to you)
  • A freeze on forced sales until September 2021 this year for eligible home loan customers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic who are struggling with repayments.

The bank also has a range of assistance measures available to its eligible business customers, including a new bridging finance facility for customers who need immediate access to the funds coming through from the Government. The bank says it will also offer a repayment holiday of up to three months for eligible small business customers with a better business loan of up to $3 million.

CBA’s financial hardship team is available to call on 1300 720 814, and business customers are encouraged to call 1800 314 695.

National Australia Bank

NAB Group Executive for Business and Private Banking, Andrew Irvine, said personal and business customers could get financial support from the bank “wherever they are”. NAB staff would be reaching out to customers impacted by restrictions.

Support available to individual customers includes:

  • Refunds of merchant terminal fees for up to three months
  • Providing a temporary reduced payment arrangement
  • Giving a temporary payment break
  • Where appropriate, restructuring a home loan or consolidating debt to suit different situations
  • Wellbeing and financial counselling support

NAB also has a suite of support measures available to eligible business customers, including loan deferrals of up to three months.

If you need to speak to someone about your financial situation, NAB’s customer care team is available on 1800 701 599.

Westpac

Westpac Group – which includes Westpac and its subsidiaries BankSA, Bank of Melbourne, St.George and RAMS –has announced it is providing financial support to personal and business customers impacted by COVID-19 restrictions across Australia. Help for individual customers may include the following:

  • Credit card repayment and interest rate reductions for a period of time
  • Home or personal loan repayment deferrals or reductions, interest rate reductions and loan term extensions
  • Fee waivers across a range of products
  • Restructuring of debt
  • Referrals to financial counsellors or other support services

Eligible small business customers with a small business cash-based loan of up to $3 million may also be able to defer repayments for up to three months. The bank will also offer eligible small business customers interest free temporary overdrafts up to $15,000 on a maximum 45-day term, designed to help bridge the gap to government assistance.

Westpac customers who need financial assistance can call Westpac Assist on 1800 067 497.

If you’re considering taking up one of these financial hardship measures from your bank, it could be worth considering how it could affect your wider financial arrangements, including whether you could afford your full repayments once a repayment deferral or reduction ends. It could be worth seeking professional advice from a suitably qualified financial adviser or counsellor.

The National Debt Helpline is available on 1800 007 007 for people seeking free financial counselling information, advice and referral services.

This story was originally published on 1 July 2021, and has been updated.


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This content was reviewed by Sub Editor Tom Letts and Deputy Editor Sean Callery as part of our fact-checking process.


Ellie McLachlan is responsible for leading and breaking financial news on mortgages, money and much more. Ellie studied a Bachelor of Journalism and Arts at UQ and has worked at major metropolitan and regional news organisations.

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