The government, banks, insurers, supermarkets and relief organisations are on standby to help NSW and South East Queensland residents impacted by the flooding crisis over the past few days. There are some immediate payments for eligible individuals of up to $3,000, as well as longer-term help and free financial advice. Here’s more information about some of the funding and financial assistance on offer, and how to apply.
In this story:
$1,000 and $400 Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments
People adversely affected by the floods in NSW in March 2021 can apply for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment until 20 September, by calling Services Australia on 180 22 66. People who meet all the eligibility criteria may be able to receive a lump sum payment of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child who is younger than 16.
According to Services Australia, “adversely affected” could mean:
- you were seriously injured as a result of the flood
- an immediate family member died or is missing due to the flood
- you’re the primary carer of a dependent child who has experienced any of these circumstances, or
- the flood significantly damaged your home.
The areas where residents may be eligible to make a claim currently are: Armidale, Bellingen, Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Camden, Campbelltown, Canterbury Bankstown, Central Coast, Cessnock, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Cumberland, Dungog Shire, Fairfield, Hawkesbury, The Hills, Hornsby, Inner West, Kempsey, Ku-ring-gai, Lake Macquarie, Liverpool, Maitland, Mid-Coast, Nambucca, Newcastle, Northern Beaches, Parramatta, Penrith, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Port Stephens, Sutherland, Tenterfield and Wollondilly.
Disaster Recovery Allowance
The Australian Government is also offering short-term financial support via the Disaster Recovery Allowance payment, if you can show you’ve lost income as a direct result of the floods in NSW in March 2021. Eligible people aged over 16 years and deemed to be independent can claim a maximum of 13 weeks of the taxable payment from the start date of lost income by calling Services Australia on 180 22 66.
The maximum Disaster Recovery Allowance payment rate is equal to the rates of JobSeeker or Youth Allowance, depending on your circumstances, with the amount you receive likewise dependent on your income before and after the floods. The base rate of JobSeeker is set to hit $620.80 per fortnight from 1 April, equating to $310.40 per week or about $44 per day.
The same eligible locations apply for the Disaster Recovery Allowance as for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday that Services Australia had already processed nearly 3,000 claims for financial support in relation to the floods, and paid out $3.5 million to affected residents.
Watching what to eat & not touching floodwaters are just some tips to #staysafe as blue skies return during the #NSWFloods & #QLDFloods, as I cover in @Canstar's checklist. https://t.co/imWnBbGrUg #flooding
— Jacqui Belesky (@JacquiBelesky) March 23, 2021
Relief provided by The Salvation Army, with help from Woolworths
The Salvation Army is on the ground operating multiple evacuation centres in NSW and providing thousands of meals to evacuees and emergency services personnel. Woolworths pledged $100,000 to the Salvos to assist with these food relief efforts, and Woolies customers will be able to support this initiative as well by rounding up the value of purchases over $30 to the nearest dollar at self-serve checkouts. The Salvos are also accepting donations directly.
The Salvation Army says it also offers financial counsellors, who may be available to help disaster-affected people work through any complex longer-term money issues.
Emergency hotline activated by insurers; flood victims to take priority
The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), the peak body for the insurance industry in Australia, has declared a “catastrophe” for large parts of NSW and South East Queensland, due to the storms and flooding of the last few days. This declaration means the ICA “expects insurers to prioritise” and escalate their responses to affected policyholders. Policyholders who are uncertain of their insurance details or who have general inquiries can call the ICA’s disaster hotline at 1800 734 621.
Policyholders across the two states have lodged over 17,000 claims associated with the floods as at 9.30am on 24 March, with many more predicted. The ICA has estimated that based on average claim costs from previous similar events, the total value of these claims already exceeds $250 million. As a point of comparison, insurers paid out almost $1 billion in relation to the February 2020 east coast storms and flooding event.
National Debt Helpline for free legal and financial advice
The National Debt Helpline is open to provide assistance to those in financial difficulty as a result of the flood crisis. It is a not-for-profit service for people struggling with insurance or other financial matters who need to speak with lawyers and financial counsellors. People can call the helpline for free advice on 1800 007 007, from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday.
After days of heavy #rain we're finally seeing it start to ease. While it's some good news for hard hit communities, it's not the end of the story. Many areas are still facing significant #flood risk, and in some communities waters are yet to peak https://t.co/3h6w40u6RH@NSWSES pic.twitter.com/Bt4WZIrRN0
— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) March 23, 2021
Loan repayment deferrals and fees waived by banks
The 22 banks that are members of the Australian Banking Association (ABA) will offer a range of services to help customers impacted by the floods, according to ABA CEO Anna Bligh. The ABA says its members may offer to help by:
- Deferring scheduled loan repayments, such as on home loans, car loans and personal loans
- Waiving fees and charges, including break costs on early access to term deposits
- Consolidating debts to help make repayments more manageable
- Restructuring existing loans without charging the usual establishment fees
- Deferring interest payments on a case-by-case basis
- Offering additional finance or emergency credit limit increases to help cover cash flow shortages
- Deferring upcoming credit card payments
- Increasing emergency credit card limits
Member banks include: the big four banks (ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac) as well as AMP, Arab Bank, Bank Australia, Bank of Queensland, Bank of Sydney, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Citibank, HSBC, ING, Macquarie Bank, MUFG Bank, ME Bank, MyState Bank, Rabobank and Suncorp Bank. Customers are encouraged to contact their bank directly for more information.
Other financial institutions are helping too, with Newcastle Permanent providing immediate assistance to its NSW flood-affected customers in the form of access to in-advance loan repayments or funds in term deposits, and restructured loan repayments. Customers are encouraged to call 13 19 87.
Heritage Bank is also helping customers hit by the flood emergency in Queensland and New South Wales, with measures such as waiving or refunding various fees, restructuring loans and assisting customers who have lost homes or vehicles by fast-tracking and escalating calls to a flood-specific claims officer if needed. The bank can be contacted 24/7 on 13 14 22.
Below are some of the measures in place for affected customers of the big four banks.
As well as the assistance measures outlined above, CommBank says customers in NSW and South East Queensland may be able to seek other individual support options. CommInsure customers may be able to get assistance with emergency accommodation if their home is damaged, and claims will be expedited for those seeking help through their home and contents insurance.
Commonwealth Bank and CommInsure customers who think they may be eligible for emergency assistance can call 1800 314 695 to find out more.
ANZ may pause payments for up to three months on home loans, credit cards, personal loans and some business loans for customers who have been affected by the NSW floods. It may, however, still charge interest during that period.
Other relief measures from the bank include temporary interest rate reductions for customers experiencing extreme financial distress, as well as the waiving of fees on some financial products. Local businesses may also be able to seek financial advice and planning from ANZ to help them recover.
ANZ customers are encouraged to call 1800 149 549 for more information, and those with home and contents insurance who may be eligible for emergency funds and temporary accommodation should call 13 16 14.
NAB has $2,000 grants immediately available to impacted customers and colleagues, as part of its $3 million Disaster Relief Fund. The grants will be available to eligible customers to help cover costs such as temporary accommodation, food and clothing. Customers can call NAB Assist on 1800 701 599 for more information.
As well as providing credit card and personal loan relief, waiving some application fees and charges and offering to defer some payments, NAB said it can also provide affected customers with free, professional and confidential counselling.
Employees and customers of Westpac who have experienced damage to their homes caused by floods in NSW and South East Queensland can access emergency grants of $3,000 to help with costs for essential items and services. Business customers can also access grants of $5,000 to assist with the recovery and re-opening process. Customers are encouraged to call 1800 067 497 for assistance.
Westpac customers impacted by the floods may also be able to defer their home loan and credit card payments for up to three months. They could also buy replacement goods with a personal loan at a discounted interest rate with no establishment fee, though it may be worthwhile first considering if there are other options available to you before taking on debt.
Home and contents insurance policy holders may also be able to receive emergency help in the form of funds and temporary accommodation, and should call 1300 369 989. Westpac has warned its insurance customers to be wary of unethical “storm chasers” who may door-knock or drop leaflets offering inspection reports or emergency repairs, and to check their reviews and call your insurer if in doubt.
Disaster relief loans and transport subsidies
The NSW Government’s Rural Assistance Authority is offering natural disaster relief loans in certain locations in the state, as well as transport subsidies to eligible farmers who have been affected by the floods. Primary producers, for instance, may be eligible for low-interest loans of up to $130,000. Applications for the loan and the transport subsidy can be submitted online.
There may be even more options available to flood victims in NSW and South East Queensland, so it’s worth checking in with your local government or financial institution to see what other financial assistance options may be available to you.