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Financial resources during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing an unprecedented level of financial stress to many people who are losing work due to illness or restrictions on social interaction and business operations. The following resources may be useful to you at this time. Since information is changing rapidly, we aim to update this page weekly.

What financial support is available in response to COVID-19?

At WIRE, we know that financial hardship is about more than just money. Job insecurity and financial instability can make all parts of life more difficult, from being able to access basic necessities like food and medication, to caring for families, to maintaining our emotional wellbeing.

Below we’ve pulled together some general information and resources so you can explore your options and be informed about what support is available to you if you are experiencing financial stress as a result of COVID-19. Every individual and family is experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic and social restrictions differently, with varying needs and priorities to consider. WIRE support staff are available Monday to Friday between 9:00am and 5:00pm to talk through all these different options and support you to make decisions about what options are best for you.

What are my legal rights if my hours have been reduced or I’ve lost my job?

If you have lost your job or your hours have changed, it is important to know your rights. Job Watch has prepared a COVID-19: Employment Rights Q&A which covers many of the changes people are experiencing in their jobs as a result of COVID-19. 

Fairwork Australia is also posting updates on government information relating to workplace rights, as well as frequently asked questions about workplace obligations and entitlements at this Corona Virus and Australia Workplace Laws website.

What payments am I entitled to if I have reduced hours or I’ve lost my job?

If you have lost your income, you can claim a Centrelink payment online through My Gov. You can view this list at Services Australia to find out what payments you are eligible for. 

Please note, Centrelink is currently dealing with a high number of claims. There are significant delays in answering calls and the website has been crashing. You can find instructions on how to register at Services Australia.

In addition to existing benefits, the government will be paying additional supplementary payments to people on eligible payments. Read more information about supplementary payments on this Services Australia website.

If you have lost your job since 1 March 2020 as a result of COVID-19, you may be eligible for the JobKeeper payment. This payment aims to ensure employers are able to retain their employees by supporting them to pay their staff $1500 (before tax) per fortnight. Employers must apply for this scheme, and inform eligible staff that they will be receiving this payment. You can speak to your employer to find out if they will be receiving and implementing the JobKeeper payment. You can find out more information about JobKeeper payment, including how it interacts with other Centrelink payments on this Treasury website

If you want more information about your rights to social security or need support in appealing a Centrelink decision, you can speak to Social Security Rights Victoria (SSRV)

How can I find other work during the pandemic?

There is currently a Victorian State government initiative to employ workers who have recently lost their job or casuals who no longer have shifts. Read more information about the requirements, jobs available and the application process on the Victorian Government Working For Victoria webpage

You can also explore available jobs in sectors that are experiencing an increase in demand including health and care sectors, transport and logistics, some areas of retail, mining and mining services, manufacturing, food production and government sectors. You can visit the Australian Government webpage Jobs Hub to see available jobs in these industries. You can also complete the job seeker form on Job Match, a service run by the United Workers Union that aims to match workers with employers in industries that are currently increasing their workforce.

You can also receive support to prepare and apply for other jobs through Fitted for Work, which is offering remote support with:

  • Resume and cover letter preparation  
  • LinkedIn training 
  • Interview preparation and mock interviews 
  • Online job searching and tailoring applications 

I’m worried I won’t be able to pay bills, loans, my rent or other debts during this time – what can I do?

There are a range of options you can explore if you’re experiencing financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:

  • Speaking to your bank, insurer or utility provider – many banks are providing different forms of support during the COVID-19 pandemic, including pausing repayments on loans, waiving fees and financial hardship services. Finder has prepared a resource which outlines what many of the banks and insurance companies are offering, as well as what energy and utility companies are offering.
  • Speaking to a financial counsellor – if you need support managing debts during this time, you can speak to a financial counsellor for free by calling the National Debt Hotline on 1800 007 007.
  • Exploring low-interest loan options if you need to borrow money fast, it’s important to make sure you check the fees. You can find out about what different kinds of low-interest loans may be available to you from Money Smart.  
  • Accessing funds from your superannuation – the Government has announced that individuals facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 can access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in the 2019/20 financial year and a further $10,000 in the 2020/21 financial year. It is important to remember when exploring this option that your superannuation is intended to provide you with income when you retire. You can read about some of the things to consider before accessing funds from your superannuation in this article by Women’s Agenda. Find out more about early access to superannuation from this Treasury Factsheet.

You can also look at the COVID Money Project which includes information on crisis budgeting, COVID-19 related financial resources and some possible actions for people who have experienced a significant reduction in income as a result of COVID-19.

If you would like to discuss these options to decide what is right for you, you can have a conversation with a WIRE support staff member by calling us on 1300 134 130 or writing us an email.

I’m worried about paying my rent or mortgage — what can I do?

There are a few options for people who are unable to pay rent due to financial hardship related to COVID-19. These include:

  • New laws in Victoria protect tenants from evictions and allow you to negotiate a rent reduction with your landlord if you’re suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19. You can find out more information about your rights on this Consumer Affairs webpage
  • Tenants Victoria is posting up to date information on a COVID-19 Guide for Renters page.  
  • You can write to your landlord asking for a payment plan – Justice Connect have developed a Dear Landlord tool to help you construct your letter which you can use as a template. You may also be eligible for a $2000 Rent Relief grant from the Victorian Government if you are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19.

If you are unable to pay your mortgage payments, you can speak to your lender. Many banks are offering to freeze mortgages. You can learn more about what to do if you have problems paying your mortgage on this webpage on  Moneysmart.

I’m a temporary visa holder in Australia, what financial support or services can I access?

Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa Holders may be entitled to the JobKeeper payment if their employer is receiving these payments. If you currently hold this visa and have lost your job, you can speak to your employer to find out if you will be receiving this payment. You can read this factsheet for more information about which visa holders are eligible for JobKeeper payments.

On 29 April 2020, the Victorian Government announced an International Student Emergency Relief Fund to support international students in Victoria facing hardship as a result of COVID-19. International students will be able to access a payment of up to AUD $1,100. The Victorian Government is preparing to open applications, but in the meantime you can register your interest. Study Melbourne has also set up a COVID-19 support hub for international students studying in Victoria with up to date information on relevant resources and available assistance.

Temporary visa holders who are renting in Victoria are also able to access the Rent Relief Grant.

No other temporary visa holders are able to access government payments. If you are on a temporary visa (including refugee visa, bridging visa or seeking asylum) experiencing financial hardship, you can contact the below community organisations for more information about services available:

  • Refugee Council of Australia for useful updates for refugees and asylum seekers in relation to COVID 19. You can also search for relevant accessible services (including food, money help, everyday household goods, housing and transport) on their Services in Victoria Page. 
  • Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for information on how asylum seekers can access food, healthcare, legal aid, leisure and recreation, employment support (please note, ASRC are located in Footscray).
  • Refugee Health Network for Multilingual COVID 19 Health Information

Some temporary visa holders are eligible for work transfers through the Working For Victoria initiative. You can register for the scheme if you have lost your job or shifts of casual work and are interested in retraining or changing the type of work you do.

It is also important to note that as of 20 March 2020, only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members can travel to Australia. If you are on a temporary visa, you therefore cannot leave and return to Australia until these travel restrictions have been lifted. You will need to apply for a new visa before your existing visa expires.

How do I identify whether an advertised support is legitimate or a scam?

It’s important to be cautious of scams or illegitimate financial services as these can thrive in times of crisis. No one should be asking for your bank details over the phone, in an email or text message. If you receive a message or phone call asking for bank details hang up and call your bank.

You can find out about some common scams and other scams that have been happening at Scamwatch, including current COVID 19 scams.

How do I make sure I can stay online and connected when dealing with financial hardship?

Many major telecommunication networks are all implementing strategies to support their customers to be able to communicate and access the Internet during this time, including additional data and calls. See this up-to-date guide from WhistleOut on what each telecommunication network is providing

I am in isolation and urgently need food, toiletries or medication – where can I access these supplies?

The Victorian Government has an emergency relief program for those in mandatory self-isolation. Food packages will include items such as long-life milk, pasta, cereal, canned vegetables and sugar. Personal care packages will also be distributed to eligible households and include soap, toothpaste and deodorant. Additional items may also be provided depending on the needs of the household, such as nappies or baby formula.

You can access these by calling Victoria’s coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.

You can also check with your local council to see if they are providing emergency supplies and services. There are also many active neighbourhood support groups on social media where you can make requests for specific supplies or volunteer support. You can search on Facebook for ‘Good Karma Network’ or ‘Coronavirus Support Group’ to find one operating in your suburb or region.

My partner or family member won’t let me make decisions about money or let me know where the household money is going. What should I do?

Everybody has a right to have control over their financial situation. If someone is withholding money from you, controlling the household spending or refusing to include you in financial decisions then this is financial abuse, and is a form of family violence. If you think you may be experiencing financial abuse, you can read more about what financial abuse is and how to recognise it.

WIRE support staff are also available for you to speak to and to provide you with relevant information or referrals. You can have a conversation with a WIRE support staff member by calling us on 1300 134 130 or writing us an email.

I’m feeling isolated, anxious or overwhelmed – who can I talk to?

WIRE is still operating our online chat and phone support services remotely. If you need someone to talk to, or information that isn’t available above, please give us a call on 1300 134 130 or write us an email at support@wire.org.au. Beyond Blue have also prepared a list of available national helplines or websites for emotional wellbeing, including some that provide targeted support for specific demographics (such as youth, LGBTIQA+ and multicultural communities) or mental health concerns.

You can also contact Beyond Blue for phone counselling on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Please note COVID-19 financial information and resources are constantly updating – WIRE will be updating this page each week with any changes or new developments. You can contact WIRE support staff for the most up to date information by calling us on 1300 134 130 or writing us an email.

More information about financial resources

For more information about a wide range of financial matters you can visit the MoneySmart website. 

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