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The COVID-19 crisis is having a big impact across the country as job uncertainty increases in Australia. If you’ve lost your job or you’re worried about your finances, it can help to know that there are ways to find financial relief. Many organisations are stepping up to help Aussies get through the crisis and it’s always worth making a call to see what your options are.

This page is a guide to finding help and financial relief during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. To help keep TWU Members informed and up-to-date, we’ll continue to publish relevant content as events unfold.

National stimulus packages

The Australian federal government is announcing stimulus packages regularly. Below is a summary of some packages;

  • JobKeeper subsidies. Workers that have lost their job or had hours reduced as a result of coronavirus may be eligible for the government’s fortnightly JobKeeper payment of $1,500, paid through their employer. Please note, some employers don’t meet the eligibility criteria.
  • $1.3b in support payments to keep apprentices in work. The Government will offer up to $7,000 per apprentice per quarter to keep them in work. The measure will support around 70,000 small businesses employing approximately 117,000 apprentices.
  • Low-income earners will receive $750 cash. All welfare recipients and concession card holders will receive the payment, including 2.4 million pensioners and those with a commonwealth seniors card. This will come into effect from 31 March 2020.
  • Changes to the pension deeming rate. Payment recipients whose income is assessed using deeming could receive up to $1,612 extra a year (for couples), and up to fortnight $1,300 a year (for singles). The extra money will begin to go into people’s bank accounts from 1 May.
  • A further $750 welfare payment. Some welfare recipients will also receive another $750 payment on July 13.

Victorian stimulus packages

Here are the coronavirus economic support measures announced by the Victorian state government;

  • Working for Victoria Fund. This is a new $500 million fund to help workers who have lost their job find new employment opportunities. We are in close contact with the government to ensure our members are supported in this process.
  • Full payroll tax refunds (2019-2020 financial year). Small and medium-sized businesses can get a payroll tax refund if the payroll is under $3 million in total. This comes into effect a week from March 21.
  • Payroll tax deferment. Small and medium-sized businesses can also defer payroll tax for the first three months of the next financial year.
  • Rent relief for commercial tenants. If your business rents space in a government building, you can apply for rent relief.
  • Supplier invoices paid. To keep money flowing through the economy, the Victorian government will pay all supplier invoices it owes to companies within five working days.

If you operate a small business like many Owner Drivers in Victoria and need help, you can call the small business COVID-19 hotline on 13 22 15.

If you are struggling financially, you may also be eligible for federal government support. Check out the details of the federal coronavirus stimulus package.

Tasmanian stimulus packages

The Tasmanian government announced a $420 million support package to support businesses and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Below, we have summarised the key details of the initial $420 million support package.

  • Emergency relief payments. People required to self-isolate by public health as a result of coronavirus can access one-off emergency relief payments of $250 for individuals and up to $1,000 for families.
  • Emergency accommodation. An emergency accommodation support fund of $1 million will be established for individuals and families who have been placed in home quarantine and cannot return to their regular place of residence due to self-isolation measures being in place.
  • Apprentice and trainee support. $2.1 million worth of one-off $5,000 grants will be available for businesses that hire an apprentice or trainee. This is designed to complement the Federal Government’s apprenticeship package.
  • Faster payments from government agencies. Unless otherwise required by contractual arrangements, the normal terms of trade for payments by government agencies will be reduced from 30 days to 14 days. This could assist the cash flow of small business by requiring agencies to pay quicker.

Banks

On 20 March 2020, the Australian Banking Association (ABA) announced that banks will offer businesses who have been impacted by the outbreak a 6 month deferral for business loan repayments. All banks will be working to get in contact with clients to convey this information. It was also indicated that this deferral could extend to residential loans if needed and on a case-by-case basis. 

In the ABA’s official statement, CEO Anna Bligh said: “Banks stand ready to support customers and if anyone is in need of assistance, they shouldn’t wait but come forward as soon as possible.”

The RBA has also reduced the official interest rate to 0.25%, a record low.
Please consult with your bank for more information on support they will be providing during the epidemic.

Alternatively, remember as a TWU Member you have access to discounted banking at the ME Bank. Simply call Mobile Banking Specialist, Adam Piper on 0427179429.

More information can be obtained through the ME Bank website https://www.mebank.com.au.

Superannuation

Early Access to Superannuation: The Government is allowing individuals affected by the Coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21.

Summary

While superannuation helps people save for retirement, those significantly financially affected by the Coronavirus, accessing some of their superannuation today may outweigh the benefits of maintaining those savings until retirement.

Eligible individuals will be able to apply online through myGov to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation before 1 July 2020. They will also be able to access up to a further $10,000 from 1 July 2020 for approximately three months (exact timing will depend on the passage of the relevant legislation).

Eligibility

To apply for early release you must satisfy any one or more of the following requirements:

  • you are unemployed; or
  • you are eligible to receive a job seeker payment, youth allowance for jobseekers, parenting
  • payment (which includes the single and partnered payments), special benefit or farm household
  • allowance; or
  • on or after 1 January 2020:
  • you were made redundant; or
  • your working hours were reduced by 20 per cent or more; or
  • if you are a sole trader — your business was suspended or there was a reduction in your turnover of 20 per cent or more.

People accessing their superannuation will not need to pay tax on amounts released and the money they withdraw will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.

How to apply

If you are eligible for this new ground of early release, you can apply directly to the ATO through the myGov website: www.my.gov.au. You will need to certify that you meet the above eligibility criteria.

After the ATO has processed your application, they will issue you with a determination. The ATO will also provide a copy of this determination to your superannuation fund, which will advise them to release your superannuation payment. Your fund will then make the payment to you, without you needing to apply to them directly. However, to ensure you receive your payment as soon as possible, you should contact your fund to check that they have your correct details, including your current bank account details and proof of identity documents.

Separate arrangements will apply if you are a member of a self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF). Further guidance will be available on the ATO website: www.ato.gov.au.

Timing

You will be able to apply for early release of your superannuation from mid-April 2020.
More information can be obtained through the TWUSuper website on https://www.twusuper.com.au/forms-and-resources/news/covid-19-your-super-and-available-assistance/

Internet and mobile providers

Due to the increase in people working from home, a handful of Internet providers have made financial help more available to those impacted by COVID-19.

Vodafone has encouraged those who have been financially impacted both directly or indirectly by COVID-19 to get into contact with them to discuss flexible options that are available. This includes arranging payment plans, payment extensions and possibly waiving late payment or collection fees. You can fill out their financial hardship application online or give Vodafone a call on 1300 650 405 between 8am-8pm from Monday to Friday.
Aussie Broadband has already implemented a temporary stop to all service suspensions due to late payments. They have also offered additional financial hardship assistance to customers, from formulating payment plans as well as more tailored individual solutions for customers who are experiencing financial difficulties. They’ve asked that you contact them via the MyAussie app as it’s expected their phone lines will be seeing longer wait times due to increased demand.

Telstra is scrapping late fees and disconnections for small businesses and consumers who aren’t able to pay their bills. They’re currently offering this until the end of April, but have said they plan to review this matter further as the crisis continues.

Optus has echoed this by waiving late payment fees and stopping disconnection and credit collection activities until April 30. They’re allowing their customers, including small businesses, the ability to put their postpaid mobile plan on hold.

Whilst other Internet and mobile providers haven’t released any specific financial hardship policies in relation to COVID-19, many of them do have programs in place to help you if you’re going through a rough patch, so it’s still worth a quick investigation on your provider’s website.

Internet and mobile providers have also announced bonus data offers in order to ease the transition to working from home and self-isolation at home.

Take care of your mental health

There is a lot of stress and anxiety in the world right now and that can be made worse if you’re struggling financially. It’s important to know where to get help if you’re finding it hard to cope.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, try reaching out to Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. You can speak with trained mental health professionals over the phone or through the online forum. Their website also contains excellent information and tools for maintaining good mental health.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or severe emotional distress, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. They are a 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention network.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 000 to get help from emergency services as soon as possible.