If credit providers fail to be of assistance, you can complain to the ombudsman. Picture: iStock
If credit providers fail to be of assistance, you can complain to the ombudsman. Picture: iStock

How to access financial help during COVID-19

Struggling Australians in urgent need of financial help have plenty of free options available.

Financial Counselling Australia's chief executive officer, Fiona Guthrie, urged anyone struggling to pay their bills or making ends meet to contact their creditors immediately.

"Act early, you are not alone," she said.

"The first thing you should do is talk to your credit provider because they usually have well-functioning hardship programs."

She said it often came down to negotiating a financial arrangement with your provider.

"If necessary, for example, with the banks you can still defer payments," Ms Guthrie said.

"But if you need more help then ring the National Debt Helpline."

Experts say if you are experiencing financial difficulty you should act early in seeking help. Picture: iStock
Experts say if you are experiencing financial difficulty you should act early in seeking help. Picture: iStock

During the pandemic Ms Guthrie said financial counsellors had not been as busy as usual because of increased financial assistance available.

This includes the JobKeeper payment program, rises to JobSeeker payments (previously known as Newstart) and the ability for people to access their superannuation early.

But the Consumer Action Law Centre's chief executive officer, Gerard Brody, said if you were struggling to meet any of your regular costs such as utilities or loans don't be afraid to seek help.

"Phone them up and tell them about your predicament and ask them for financial hardship assistance," he said.

"They are obligated at law to offer you assistance that meets your needs, whether that's reduced payments or deferrals, cuts in interest charges or waiving fees."

Thousands of Australians are currently facing financial hardship. Picture: istock
Thousands of Australians are currently facing financial hardship. Picture: istock

Many Australians have sought assistance, including loan deferrals.

Latest Australian Prudential Regulation Authority data showed at the end of June there were $274 billion worth of loans granted temporary repayment deferrals. This is close to 10 per cent of all outstanding loans nationally.

Mr Brody said if a credit provider failed to be of assistance the customer could complain to the relevant ombudsman.

Ms Guthrie warned people to be careful paying third parties to help get them out of debt.
National Debt Helpline: 1800 007 007.

sophie.elsworth@news.com.au

@sophieelsworth

Originally published as How to access financial help during COVID-19



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