The COVID pandemic, associated lockdowns and a spike in online scams have left many Aussies out of pocket or feeling increasingly concerned about their financial future.
But there are avenues of financial assistance available, you just have to know where to look. Luckily we have a handy guide for you.
Also by Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:
Australians have collectively become increasingly concerned about their finances as a result of the recent Omicron outbreak, according to Toluna’s Global Consumer Barometer Study.
Almost half (48 per cent) of us are worried about financial security because of the pandemic, with more than a third (37 per cent) saying they’re now worse off than they were before it began.
Worst affected are women, with 39 per cent of women behind as a result of the pandemic, compared with only 35 per cent of men.
In fact, 22 per cent of men said they were better off now than they were pre-pandemic. Only 14 per cent of women are.
Young people have also been hit hard, with almost half of 18-to-24-year-olds saying they’re now financially challenged.
Spending confidence is down for 2022, with respondents planning to slash their discretionary budget due to the ongoing income issues, as some people are forced into isolation multiple times while they and various family members contract or avoid COVID-19.
On top of all this, Aussies fell victim to fraud to the tune of $851 million across 2020 and had painfully parted with more than that by just August last year, according to the ACCC.
So, what genuine financial help is out there? And just where do you get it?
Help 1: Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment
Long gone is the longer-term income replacement of JobKeeper, replaced by basically ‘iso assistance’ on a week-to-week basis. And, of course, we know isolation is now required to be only one week.
This is a federal payment of up to $750 if you have lost at least eight hours or a full day of work in a seven-day period of isolation and you have no sick leave entitlements.
You qualify if you have COVID, you have to care for someone with COVID or you are a close contact and have to register a positive COVID test as a first step (it can be a RAT or PCR).
The catch for many is that you need to have less than $10,000 in accessible assets. And loans to others are counted so you can’t just flick someone your ready cash to get under the threshold.
If you do not qualify, there are also various – usually less-generous – state assistance schemes but you will only be able to get one or the other.
Where to find more: www.servicesaustralia.gov.au
Help 2: Interest-free loans
These are legit and have really come into their own during the coronavirus crisis.
Issued by a not-for-profit known as Good Shepherd Microfinance and administered through a network of hundreds of financial counsellors across Australia, the idea is they are a type of emergency payment too.
Such an emergency might be urgently needing to replace a fridge or washing machine, your car has blown up or you need to pay for an educational expense.
You can access up to $5,000 with no interest, charges or fees, as long as you qualify and earn less than $45,000 a year as a single and $60,000 as a couple.
Where to find more: https://goodshep.org.au/
Help 3: Financial hardship concessions
Now, it’s probably the last thing you want to do but what you should do if you know you are going to struggle to pay your bills or make debt repayments, is tell your provider.
They must have a dedicated financial hardship department that will cut you some slack, whether it is to delay or reduce payments.
If things are worse than that, you can also get free financial counselling from a network of amazing people around the country. Through the National Debt Helpline, they will advocate with creditors and also Centrelink for you.
Importantly, they will also restructure you finances so they are viable going forward.
Where to find more: National Debt Helpline - ndh.org.au or 1800 007 007