Dealing with debt during COVID-19

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Dealing with debt can feel overwhelming and with the current COVID-19 pandemic, these feelings may only increase. Fortunately, there is help available across a wide range of areas. 

Contact your provider

If you’re finding it hard to pay your day to day bills – such as electricity, gas, and phone bills – due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic your first step should be to contact your provider.  

Ask for the hardship team

Many telecommunication providers, energy providers, and banks have special arrangements or hardship programs in place to help people facing financial difficulty. Find out more about hardship programs for different service providers here. 

Ask about concessions 

The Smart Savings website is a one-stop shop for finding and applying for Queensland Government concessions that can help ease cost of living pressures for Queenslanders. Transport, health and disability, seniors, energy and water are just a few of the areas where help is available. Take a look here. 

Keep an eye out for your Queensland Government electricity rebates

The Queensland Government is providing a $200 rebate for all Queensland households to offset the cost of water and electricity bills. The rebate will be automatically applied through household electricity bills during the next quarter. 

Additionally, electricity customers who are pension concession card holders, veterans, healthcare card holders, ImmiCard, and Seniors Card holders are eligible for a $340 per year rebate from the Queensland Government. Find out more. 

Apply for Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme (HEEAS)

The Queensland Government’s Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme (HEEAS) offers a one-off payment of up to $720 for eligible Queensland customers who are unable to pay their electricity or gas bill due to a short-term financial crisis. Contact your energy retailer to find out if you are eligible and ask for the HEEAS application form.  

Struggling to pay your water bill?

Eligible residential property owners can get support direct from water providers (Urban Utilities or UnityWater), and local councils. The best thing you can do if your circumstances change is to contact your provider as soon as possible. 

Help with travel and transport costs

Public transport subsidies are available for people receiving JobSeeker payments. Eligible job seekers can apply onlinefor a 50 per cent concession fare on TransLink public transport services (excluding Airtrain and tourist rail services), regional qconnect bus services, and approved regional ferry services. More details can be found here. 

Queensland Transport has a range of concessions on travel and vehicle registration that people on concession cards can access, and some special conditions around COVID-19. Crucially, you can cancel your car registration and reregister later without additional fees. Click here to find out more. 

Tolls

The best strategy for toll debt is to try and avoid it in the first place as it will accumulate with additional charges, especially if the debt is transferred to SPER. 

Tolling company, Linkt has expanded their Linkt Assist support to include a toll credit up to three months for customers directly impacted by COVID-19. Even if you do not meet the assistance criteria, you can still access support if you are having difficulties paying for tolls. Visit the Linkt website for more information. 

Banking

ASIC’s (Australian Securities and Investment Commission) MoneySmart website provides guidance on how to approach your lender if you are struggling with your debts.   

If you are struggling with your loan or mortgage repayments, you can ask your lender for a hardship variation to make your loan more manageable. A hardship variation is a change to the terms of the loan, based on financial hardship. See here for a list of banks. 

If your request for financial assistance is denied by your bank or financial services provider (including insurance and super) or you feel you were not treated fairly, you can contact Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) on 1800 931 678 (free call) to make a complaint. This is a free service. 

Debt management

If in debt, call the National Debt Hotline on 1800 007 007 for free, independent advice. 

The service can provide advice over the phone and, if necessary, refer you to a financial counsellor. A financial counsellor may assess your financial situation, give advice, directly advocate with financial and utility companies, SPER, Buy-Now Pay-Later companies (including payday lenders) and consumer lease companies, and give general advice options. 

Emergency relief

The OnePlace Community Services directory can help you find services in your local area, including those providing emergency relief. It lists everything you need from parenting groups to domestic and family violence support services, as well as organisations offering food relief and emergency accommodation. Click here to access the directory. 

20 May 2020 |Focus area: