With huge tracts of south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales affected by flooding in the past weeks, and more to potentially come, it’s a desperate situation for many.
Beyond the interminable wait on insurance company phone lines - with such a large volume of claims - and then for tradies, the next distress is very probably money.
Also read: How to claim extra $2,000 flood payments
Here is everywhere else you can get (and give) help.
Disaster Recovery Payment
The Federal Government has activated a scheme that is always on hand for natural disasters, for dozens of flood-affected areas.
It’s available as a one-off, non-means-tested payment of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child.
In Lismore and the Richmond and Clarence Valleys, an extra two such payments are now available, just announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison amid scathing criticism of the Government’s response.
Areas eligible for one $1,000 payment in NSW are Armidale, Bellingen, Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Camden, Campbelltown, Canterbury Bankstown, Central Coast, Cessnock, Coffs Harbour, Cumberland, Dungog Shire, Fairfield, Hawkesbury, 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, The Hills and Wollondilly.
The 26 areas in Queensland include Brisbane, Fraser Coast, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Logan, Moreton Bay, Noosa, Redland, Scenic Rim, Somerset, South Burnett, Southern Downs, Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba.
To qualify, you need to have experienced significant loss or damage, or injury, as a consequence of flooding.
You can find more information at servicesaustralia.gov.au/disaster and can apply through the Centrelink part of your myGov account or on 180 22 66.
Applications can be approved over the phone, and don’t worry if the administration involved is the last thing on your mind right now; you have six months to claim.
Disaster Recovery Allowance
Along with the Disaster Recovery Payment, you may qualify for up to 13 weeks’ income at the equivalent of the JobSeeker or Youth Allowance rate.
You need to have experienced loss of income as a result of the floods and again you apply at myGov and can find further information at Services Australia.
NSW Disaster Recovery funding arrangements
This is a NSW government initiative that helps individuals and businesses in the eligible areas of Armidale, Ballina, Bellingen, Byron, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Glen Innes Severn, Hornsby, Kempsey, Kyogle, Lismore, Nambucca, Port Macquarie/Hastings, Richmond, Tenterfield, The Hills and Tweed.
A disaster relief grant is on offer for low-income earners who have sustained damage.
There is also assistance finding temporary housing for those who have been forced from their homes.
You can find more at https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/floods/financial-assistance or on 13 77 88.
QLD Structural Assistance and Emergency Hardship Assistance grants
QLD’s Structural Assistance Grant is less generous than in NSW, at a top $11,000 for single adults and $14,685 for couples and families.
It is similarly means tested and intended to shore up damaged, uninsured properties.
In QLD there is also the Emergency Hardship Assistance Grant which can also be accessed via 1800 173 349.
This is non means tested, and you can get a payment of $180 per person up to $900 for a family of five.
Home loan holidays
The Australian Banking Association has been swift to announce that the repayment pauses available during COVID-19 lockdowns are also on offer now.
You can hold your home loan repayments for up to three months. Just contact your lender.
But be aware, this move is not as generous as it may sound on the surface. Check with your bank to see if you can make up the payments later. Otherwise you will incur extra interest.
If you are renting and can’t pay right now, contact your landlord and explain and negotiate what you can. There are different authorities and tribunals in each state that can help if they don’t come to the party.
Beyond your mortgage repayments, you can get concessions on pretty much every bill.
From personal loan payments to power, organisations must have dedicated financial-hardship departments to help people whose circumstances have taken a turn for the worse.
Again, get on the phone and detail the hit to your hip pocket.
They will come up with a deferral or different repayment plan. If you are genuinely in trouble, they have to.
Free financial counselling
There is a tremendous network of hundreds of financial counsellors around Australia, whose services you can access free through the National Debt Hotline or on 1800 007 007.
You can tap into free assistance to go through your finances and make them sustainable.
Part of this process could also be for them to advocate with providers for hardship provisions - including your mortgage issuer - and also fast track things with Centrelink for you.
If your economic stress looks like it will be ongoing, get in contact immediately.
Where to give
The next few places to get assistance are also where you can give assistance if you are able.
Brisbane’s Flood Army 2.0
The Brisbane City Council has reinstated this collective of generous-minded people who helped clear up after the devastating 2011 floods.
Donations of things
Your local charities, such as the Salvation Army, will be in overdrive giving food parcels and household supplies.
Give or get such things in your local area.
Donations of money
You can donate to local charities and also directly to the tremendous SES and Rural Fire Service, which usually take cheques and direct deposits.
Of course, all donations are tax-deductible at your marginal tax rate, so there’s something in it for you more than simply contributing.
Go Fund Me
Individual cases of extreme flood damage can be found at crowd-funding platform GoFundMe, if you need direct, fast assistance or want to directly assist.
These are tough times. Put your hand up for help.
And if you have questions about your insurance policy or the claims process, the Insurance Council of Australia has a hotline: 1800 734 621.