Finance Your Budget Sydney lockdown: Here’s what financial support is available and how to get it

Sydney lockdown: Here’s what financial support is available and how to get it

Sydney lockdown Gladys Berejikilian
NSW Premier Gladys Berejikilian says the state will be in lockdown until at least July 30. Photo: AAP
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Sydney residents will have to live under stay-at-home orders until at least July 30 after the state reported another 97 new local cases on Wednesday.

As the economic fallout from the lockdown worsens, governments and business groups are making direct financial support and bill relief available to residents finding it difficult to make ends meet during the latest outbreak.

But what support is available, and how can you access it?

Sydney lockdown: Cash payments

Cash payments are available for residents affected by the Sydney lockdown provided they meet certain criteria.

COVID-19 disaster payment

The federal government introduced the COVID-19 Disaster Payment in June in response to the latest lockdown in Victoria.

The payment is available to people aged 17 years or older living in a Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 hotspot who lost work as a direct result of a government lockdown.

But the payment is not available to people who receive other types of income support such as JobSeeker or the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment; it only kicks in on the the eighth day of a lockdown; and applicants must not have any “appropriate paid leave entitlements”.

When it was announced, the payment was $325 a week for people who lost fewer than 20 hours of work, and $500 a week for people who lost more than 20 hours.

But on Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the amounts available would increase in the fourth week of any lockdown to $600 a week for people who lost more than 20 hours of work a week, and $375 for people who lost between eight and 20 hours of work a week.

Mr Morrison has also waived the payment’s asset test from the third week of a lockdown, meaning all eligible residents can access the payment if a lockdown drags into a third week regardless of how much they have in their bank account.

Initially, the payment was only available to people with less than $10,000 in liquid assets, such as savings and shares.

You can apply for the payment online via your MyGov account.

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

Residents required to self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone that has COVID-19 may be eligible for a lump sum payment worth $1500 over 14 days.

But the payment is not available to people who receive any income from paid work or already receive an income support payment from the federal government.

Applicants must also have no appropriate leave entitlements available, such as sick leave or personal leave.

Services Australia has said the easiest way to claim the payment is via phone. The number is 180 22 66.

A full eligibility requirement list is available here.

Bill relief

Relief is available for Sydney residents unable to pay their bills during the extended lockdown.

Bank loan deferrals

Australia’s four major banks – Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac and NAB – are offering payment deferrals on loans to people affected by or recently affected by lockdowns.

The relief is available on application (so it’s best to call your bank).

Home loan deferrals will be granted on a month-by-month basis while business loan deferrals of up to three months are available to SMEs.

The banks have also offered to waive fees and notice periods on cash deposit and farm management deposit accounts for up to three months, and committed to refunding merchant terminal fees for up to three months, too.

To apply for support, call your bank or contact them online.

Energy bill relief

People in New South Wales having trouble paying their electricity or gas bills can access the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance scheme.

Vouchers worth up to $50 are available to help pay bills for residents experiencing a financial emergency.

You must send in a copy of your bill, already be on a hardship plan with your retailer, and have a MyServiceNSW account to apply for the scheme.

You can apply here.

Rent assistance

Private rental assistance is available to residents in NSW for people who suffer a “major financial setback” such as an illness or job loss.

Ordinary government support includes grants to help pay rent and interest-free loans to cover all or part of a rental bond.

And on Tuesday the NSW government announced further protection with a targeted eviction moratorium.

The Rent Choice program pays subsidies for up to three years to help cover rent payments.

Eligibility information is available here.

The Tenancy Assistance Scheme is a shorter program that provides up to four weeks rent to cover unpaid bills or water charges. You can claim once every 12 months.

Eligibility information is available here.

As for the pandemic policies announced on Tuesday, tenants who cannot pay their rent in full as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak cannot be evicted between now and September 11.

Residential landlords who decrease rent for affected tenants can apply for a government grant of up to $1500 or land tax reductions depending on their circumstances.

And small business owners can access further grants of up to $15,000 as outlined by the NSW and federal governments.

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