Last updated: 24 March 2020
You’re hard working, independent, and resilient. You have big dreams for yourself, your loved ones and your community.
But right now, COVID-19 has resulted in you losing paid working hours, and your income may have dropped to zero overnight.
You may be feeling alone or embarrassed, you’re almost certainly feeling anxious and worried. These feelings are normal. But the fact that you’re reading this tells me two things: the first is that you are used to being financially independent (you’ve never expected anyone to swoop in and take care of the bills); and the second is that you’re already thinking proactively, trying to find a path, a first next-step.
You’re already demonstrating your resilience.
If you’re finding it difficult to get a grasp on what support is available, you’re not alone. With a manic news cycle and daily updates on the government’s response to COVID-19, things are changing rapidly. So to help you think through what to do next, we’ve created this guide, including the most up to date information about what support the Government is providing to people who have had their income affected by COVID-19, and some solid first next steps.
Wherever you’re sitting, if you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a deep breath in through your nose, and a slow breath out through your mouth. Do this a few times as relaxing your mind will help you to reduce anxiety in this moment and help you to process information.
If you were employed, and recently lost your position, or had your hours drastically cut back, ensure that your employer followed the law. A lot of businesses are under stress at the moment and we can expect that some employers will make mistakes.
If you are a sole trader or small business, there are likely to be other legal issues which could emerge impacting your business including cancellations of bookings and late payments.
You can check out this list of FAQs prepared by the Fair Work Ombudsman relating to workplace obligations and entitlements.
Victoria Legal Aid has also reported increased demand, and created an excellent information page on COVID-19 related legal issues, and how you can access legal support. This support is relevant for employees and business owners.
If you are a Union member that’s also a great place to seek support.
The Government announced new measures on 22 March 2020 to provide support to affected workers, businesses, and the broader community. For more information visit treasury.gov.au/coronavirus
Income Support Payments
If you’ve lost your job or if you’re a sole trader and your income has dropped dramatically, then you could be eligible for the Government’s new JobSeeker Payment.
From 20 March 2020, the JobSeeker Payment replaces Newstart Allowance as the main income support payment for recipients aged between 22 years to Age Pension qualification age who have the capacity to work.
You can apply for this payment if you’re an Australian resident without a job who is currently looking for work, or who temporarily cannot work or study because of an injury or illness, or who is dealing with the death of your partner. Eligibility rules apply.
Household support payments
The Government is providing two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. The first payment will be made from 31 March 2020 and the second payment will be made from 13 July 2020. Around half of those that benefit are pensioners. This payment will help to support confidence and domestic demand in the economy. The second payment will not be made to those eligible for the Coronavirus supplement. You can read more here.
Centrelink has put together a great online tool so that you can quickly understand what payments and services you may be eligible for.
If you’re out of work because you caught COVID-19, you’re in isolation or hospitalised, or your caring for your children, there are ways to get financial support.
The Government has waived the one-week wait time for claiming Youth Allowance as a job seeker, a JobSeeker payment or a Parenting payment between 12 March and 12 June 2020.
If you’re a casual employee, independent contractor or gig economy worker, you might not be entitled to sick leave. However, a number of large retailers are now offering paid leave to casual workers in Australia – so ask if this is an option.
State Governments are also making various announcements to support those directly impacted by the virus. For example, as part of WA’s recent stimulus package, public sector employees (including casual staff) in WA will get access to 20 days paid COVID-19 sick leave to encourage sick people to stay home. The leave will apply to workers who have coronavirus, who need to self-isolate, who need to care for family or are unable to attend work because of transport or other disruptions linked to the virus.
If you’re exposed to coronavirus as a result of your work, you may be able to access workers compensation. In order to be eligible for workers compensation, you will need to prove that the virus was contracted directly from your workplace or due to your working conditions and that your employer did not protect you from this. Workers compensation is handled by individual states and territories, read more information here.
Create a simple budget, you can use the budget planner available on the Government’s Money Smart website.
Understand what income you may have coming in and also your outgoings — including bills and basic living costs like your groceries, rent, mortgage etc.
Assume that if you apply for any form of government assistance that it may take a month or more to receive a payment. There are now long cues outside of Centrelink offices.
Think about your budget up until the point that you may be eligible to start to receive assistance and then your budget afterwards and whether you will be able to cover your basic living costs.
Think through the actions you can take to reduce costs. Already many of your entertainment and food costs will be lowered as a result of social distancing requirements and the closing of cafes and restaurants. You might want to consider other expenses such as subscription services such as Netflix or Spotify. Then consider the ways that you could boost or obtain income.
If there’s still a gap, then you might want to consider the following options for making your budget balance.
If your income has dropped dramatically, you’re understandably going to be more stressed about money and paying bills.
The good news is that lots of banks, insurers and utility providers are offering support to customers in financial hardship including loan repayment variations and bill freezes or pauses. Insurers can also pause premium payments in some cases and still maintain your coverage. Each company will have their own procedures for financial hardship so contact them directly.
Finder has put together this excellent resource, including updates on what some of the large banks, insurers and utility providers are offering customers in hardship.
If you’re about to go into arrears, or are in arrears, inform your landlord or real estate agent and try to negotiate a repayment plan. Make sure to get in touch as soon as you can and keep in regular contact.
When you speak to them, explain your circumstances and ask for consideration. Make sure you explain how you will be able to pay the ongoing rent and also catch up on any missed rental payments.
Australia’s Tenant Unions suggest putting the offer in writing and keeping a copy for yourself. Even if your landlord or real estate agent rejects your offer, you can use the letter as evidence that you tried to resolve the matter.
Contact your local tenants’ union if you require support
ACT – Tenants’ Union of ACT
Northern Territory – Tenants’ Advice Service, Darwin Community Legal Service
NSW – TenantsNSW
Queensland – Tenants Queensland
South Australia – Tenants Information and Advocacy Service
Tasmania – Tenants’ Union of Tasmania
Victoria – Tenants Union of Victoria
Western Australia – TenancyWA
At moments like this, we all tend to feel very alone. But we all have friends and community groups that do care about us.
Write a list of all your friends, family, colleagues/former colleagues and community groups that care about you and would want to see you well supported at this time.
Take a moment to realise that you do have a support network.
Now think about what you need and how this group can help you. Your first request may be to consider contacting friends/family and asking for a loan.
Consider writing a loan agreement (it can even be an agreement via email)
Many of us feel awkward asking for money, if you identify with this, then instead arm yourself with a loan agreement and offer to pay a nominal amount of interest on the loan. This could create a win-win for both parties.
Ensure that you have a plan for how you will pay back any loan. Law Access NSW provides information on what you should consider including in your loan agreement, and there are companies that offer loan templates for purchase online for a low fee.
If you don’t have friends and family in Australia, then you can still reach out online. This may also be a good time to download Bumble BFF, an app that helps you make friends and connect with people nearby. There are also many local facebook groups emerging to connect neighbours. While you can’t meet in person right now, you can still connect digitally.
Low interest loans provide short term access to cash without having to rely on higher interest options such as credit cards or ‘pay-day’ loans. This means you can gain access to much needed cash while paying less interest or fees than if you use a credit card or ‘pay-day’ loan. There are several low-interest loans available on the market.
There is even a no interest loan scheme (NILs), which is managed by Good Shepherd Microfinance, a community organisation, with loans of between $300 and $1,200 available for 12-18 months.
You may be able to claim on your income protection insurance if you meet your policy’s requirements.
Contact your insurance company immediately to find out if you would be covered in the event you lose your job. The insurer will be able to walk you through the process if you are eligible to make a claim.
Income insurance pays you a regular income for a specified period of time (usually between 2 and 5 years, or up to a certain age) if you can’t work due to temporary disability or illness. In most cases, you won’t be eligible for a standard income protection policy if you’re a casual worker. This is because your job isn’t considered stable enough for insurers to cover you. However, some insurers cover casual workers, so long as you work at least 20 hours a week and have been employed with the company for a minimum amount of time, e.g. 2 years.
You may be able to use your superannuation to pay for your income protection insurance cover. For a more personalised overview of the insurance options that may be available to you, we recommend you consider speaking to a financial advisor.
On 22 March 2020, the Government announced that individuals in financial stress as a result of COVID-19 will be able to 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. Eligibility requirements will apply. This policy is yet to be legislated and specific details about implementation are still to be provided.
It’s important to remember that your superannuation is intended to provide you with an income when you retire. We recommend that you consider speaking to a financial advisor about the long term impact that early withdrawals can have on your retirement savings.
WA recently announced a $607 million stimulus package which will freeze household fees until the next financial year (June 30, 2021). Western Australians will still have to pay their bills, but there will be no increases in line with inflation, as was originally intended.
Tasmania has also announced that it will provide one-off emergency relief payments for casual workers and those on low incomes of $250 for individuals, as well as $1,000 for families forced to self-isolate.
It’s expected that more states will announce state stimulus packages which you might be able to benefit from.
Finder is keeping a great list of all announcements, you can see recent announcements here.
Take some time to update your LinkedIn profile and your CV. Have a think about your current financial situation and then decide whether you start looking for a dream job, a decent job or just a job that’s going to pay your bills. It is likely that the economic situation may get a whole lot worse before it gets better so be realistic about your priorities and focus on establishing financial security first.
Be proud of what you have to offer and ask for help. Go back to that list you wrote earlier of your support network and add any important business connections you may have been missing, now start letting everyone know that you are looking for opportunities and do it loudly.
Losing your job and coping with the local impacts of a global health crisis isn’t easy, but you’re not alone. If you’re experiencing mental or emotional distress, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
We hope this information has been useful, you are welcome to join our Facebook group Women with Verve Talk Money and Life, to gain support form a community of people who care about each other’s financial situation.
Information provided is of a general nature only. It’s important to do your own research and consider getting in touch with a professional adviser if you need some help determining the best form of action based on your personal financial objectives, situation and needs.
This guide is issued by Verve Superannuation Pty Ltd (ABN 65 628 675 169, AFS Representative No. 001268903), which is a Corporate Authorised Representative of True Oak Investments Ltd (ABN 81 002 558 956, AFSL 238184), as the Sub-Promoter of the Fund. Visit our website or call us on 1300 799 482 or email us at email@example.com.