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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.
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.
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 webpage.
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).
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:
There are a range of options you can explore if you’re experiencing financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:
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.
There are a few options for people who are unable to pay rent due to financial hardship related to COVID-19. These include:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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. You can see a list of what each council is currently providing on this Study Melbourne Community Support and Food Relief web page. North West Homelessness Networks have also compiled a list of emergency relief and material aid options.
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.
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 have, or someone I care for has, a disability- where can find accessible information and assistance?
The Department of Health and Human Services has created an online page to provide people with a disability with accessible information about COVID-19, services, financial assistance and supplies. It also features mental health resources.
You can also contact the Disability Information Helpline on 1800 643 787 for information about Covid19, referrals, and access to counselling. The helpline is available Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 7pm.
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 email@example.com. 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.