If you’ve recently lost your job or been stood down due to COVID-19, it is likely to be a distressing time. If you are experiencing financial stress, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Here are some practical steps that you can take to help manage the situation.
First things first; draw up a budget and know where you stand
A budget can help you work out how much money you’ll need to cover costs while you navigate the financial impact of being without income. If you need help getting started, check out Money Smart’s Budget planner.
Understand if you qualify for government financial assistance
COVID-19 Disaster Payment for individuals
You may be eligible for a Government lump sum payment if you’re unable to make an income due to COVID-19 – whether you are in a lockdown, hotspot area or period of restricted movement. You need to meet some rules to get this payment; check who can get it here.
Eligible people who have lost between 8-20 hours of work per week will receive $325 for each relevant period. Those who have lost 20 hours or more of work per week will receive $500 for each relevant period. These amounts increase to $375 and $600 from week four of a lockdown. Find out more here.
Other Government payments
You may be eligible for other payments from Centrelink; you can find out more here.
Contact your bank
If you have any loan repayments (including credit cards, personal loans or a home loan) get in touch with your bank as soon as possible to discuss the situation. Most financial organisations have policies covering assistance for customers who are experiencing financial hardship.
Contact your utility providers
If you are concerned that you won’t be able to pay any of your utility bills, i.e. gas, electricity, mobile phone bills, or landline bills, you can contact your providers to discuss the situation. Most utility companies have policies covering assistance for customers who are experiencing financial hardship. In these instances, you will likely be able to access some form of payment plan.
Contact your landlord or real estate agent if you are renting
If you are concerned that you won’t be able to make a rental payment contact your landlord or real estate agent and ask for a short term rent reduction or payment deferral. Some landlords may be happy to oblige given the difficult circumstances due to COVID-19. It’s also important to know your rights around tenancy in case you can’t pay your rent. You can read more about how COVID-19 has impacted tenancy rights here.
Seek financial guidance
Free financial counselling is available via the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.
Financial Information Service (FIS) Officers can provide information on termination payments, superannuation, Centrelink payments and services, and taxation implications. To speak with an Officer, call 132 300 and follow the prompts.
Consider accessing your superannuation
If you are out of work for an extended period of time and are experiencing financial hardship, there are some circumstances under which you may be able to access your superannuation early. Accessing superannuation takes time and you must be able to demonstrate financial hardship. Start the process early if you think that you will need the funds to meet your daily living costs.
Call your super fund to learn more. If you are a Verve member, you can contact us here.
Access COVID-19 support networks
Losing your job can be distressing. If your income has been impacted by COVID-19, try to remember that what you are feeling is valid, and a common reaction to your situation. Make sure to reach out to family and friends, and if things are getting on top of you, it’s important to seek professional support.
The Department of Health and Human Services provide short-term counselling, support and information. Call 132 850, follow the prompts and ask to speak to a social worker.
Beyond Blue also provides a free Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service. You can call Beyond Blue 24/7 on 1800 512 348.
If you’re in immediate debt stress due to COVID-19
If you are experiencing financial hardship and struggling to pay off debt, it’s important to understand your rights. Knowing your rights can help you when you are talking with your creditors and looking at how to resolve your debt problems.
If your debt situation is complex, or you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can call the National Debt helpline (for free) on 1800 007 007 to speak to a financial counsellor.
If you’d prefer to chat with a financial counsellor online, you can use the National Debt Hotline live chat service.