Bushfire financial relief infoJan 07, 2020
Being a numbers and finance gal, I have to confess I naturally assume people know where to go for financial information but I've been inundated since posting IG stories detailing where you could go to for help. Here, I wanted to create one place you can go to which lists both business and personal help.
The relief monies I've listed below is a mixture of help for individuals, businesses, not for profits and sporting organisations. It's also a mix of immediate monies, long term assistance and relief from loans.
I'll start with Private and Corporate Monies and finish with government monies available and will continue to update this page as I'm made aware of more funds. If anything is missing or you have questions please let me know. This guide isn't exhaustive but is a place to start.
Red Cross Grants
People who lost their homes in a bushfire may be eligible for an emergency grant of $5,000. Visit https://www.redcross.org.au/get-help/emergencies/recovering-from-emergencies/direct-assistance-contact . They'll follow up after Monday 6 January to verify a few pieces of information, including proof of residence. Once the checks are done, you will get a payment by EFT.
Grants are available to people whose primary place of residence has been destroyed or rendered uninhabitable because of a bushfire. Grants will be open until 30 April 2020.
When you apply online you'll need to comply with some basic checks. You'll need to provide scanned or photo evidence of the following documents:
* Evidence of your identity, such as a drivers licence or passport
* Proof of residence, such as a recent utility bill
* Details for a financial transfer, such as a recent bank statement showing your name, bank name, BSB and account details
The Australian banking sector has rolled out a natural disaster program for customers in communities impacted by the bushfire and drought emergencies that are devastating parts of the country. The Australian Bankers Association have announced a suite of fee-and-loan-repayment changes to help customers get through the crisis. Member banks include the big four banks and a host of other lenders, including Macquarie, AMP, Rabobank, Suncorp, ING, Bank of Queensland and ME Bank.
Under the scheme, member banks will, on request, defer scheduled loan repayments and waive some fees and charges, including break costs on early redemption of farm management deposits. Banks will also defer interest payments on a case-by-case basis. Other measures include restructuring existing loans free of the usual establishment fees and enabling debt consolidation to help make repayments more manageable. Banks are also offering additional finance to help cover cash flow shortages and can increase emergency credit card limits. Given some of the hardest hit regions are in popular tourist areas, banks are also encouraging small businesses to get in touch to access a range of assistance measures to help them through the recovery.
But your bank doesn't necessarily know that you've been affected so make sure you contact them directly and let them know.
Below are the contact details (phone and information pages) of financial hardship teams at each Australian Banking Association member bank:
AMP: 1300 130 191, Experiencing financial hardship
ANZ: 1800 252 845, Customer Connect
BOQ: 1800 079 866, Financial Hardship Assistance
BankSA: 1800 679 461, BankSA Assist
Bankwest: 1300 769 173, Experiencing financial hardship
Bendigo and Adelaide Bank: 1300 652 146, Financial difficulty assistance
Citibank: 1800 722 879, Hardship assistance
Commonwealth Bank: 1300 720 814, Emergency assistance
HSBC: 1300 555 988, Financial difficulty
ING: 1300 349 166, Financial Hardship
Macquarie Bank: 1300 363 330, Financial Hardship
ME Bank: 1300 500 520, ME Bank financial hardship
MyState: 13 800 1, MyState financial hardship
NAB: 1800 701 599, Financial Hardship
Rabobank: 1800 025 484, Financial Hardship
Rural Bank: 1800 660 115, Financial Hardship
St. George Bank: 1800 629 795, St. George Assist
Suncorp Bank: 1800 225 223, Suncorp Customer Assist
Westpac: 1800 067 497, Westpac Assist
NAB Disaster Relief Fund (now extended to $5 million)
NAB customers who have lost homes this bushfire season can immediately access $2,000 grants to help cover costs such as temporary accommodation, food and clothing.This has now been extended to impacted business owners and farmers. Individuals who want to access the grants should contact the NAB Assist team on the dedicated number 1300 683 106 (8am-8pm Monday to Friday; and 9am-1pm Saturday AEST/AEDT) while NAB business and agribusiness customer wishing to access the grants should call NAB’s dedicated team on 1300 023 429 . NAB employees who have had to evacuate their homes can also access a $1,000 grant.
Westpac Relief Fund (For Westpac, St George, Bank SA and Bank of Melbourne customers)
Westpac have also announced a $1.5 million bushfire fund which also includes grants of up to $2,000 for customers and employees whose properties have been destroyed or damaged. To access these grants, contact your local branch, Relationship Manager or the Westpac Assist team on 1800 067 497
On the 13 January, Westpac also announced its mortgage customers who have lost their principal place of residence due to the bushfires, Westpac will pay the customer’s mortgage repayments for one year (up to $1,200 per month).
Telstra and other Communication Providers
Customers who have had to evacuate their home or have lost their home are encouraged to call Telstra on 132 203 (then enter their full home phone number including area code when prompted) to report a fault and register for the assistance package. Telstra’s relief packages can include the following:
Short term measures (for Telstra customers who have a short term impact – temporary evacuation of premises or temporary fault):
* Free use of Telstra public payphones in the affected areas
* Free use of Telstra Air payphone hotspots in the affected areas
* Free call diversion from an affected fixed home or business phone service to another fixed or mobile service of the customer’s choice, regardless of the carrier
* Customers who use the free call diversion to divert their affected fixed home or business phone to their Telstra mobile service can also make local and STD® calls on their mobile at fixed-line rates, in accordance with their selected plan (limited to one designated Telstra mobile per affected household or business)
Affected Telstra mobile customers who do not have a Telstra home phone can receive a one-off credit to the value of $100 inc. GST (limited to one mobile phone per Telstra mobile account).
The above offers are applicable until network damage in the area due to fire is repaired, or while customers remain evacuated, for a maximum period of three months from the date of the fires.
Long term measures (for Telstra customers who have suffered severe damage to or loss of their premises):
* Free call diversion from the customer’s Telstra fixed phone service to another Australian fixed or mobile service of their choice, regardless of the carrier. This offer is applicable for a maximum period of 6 months from the date of the fire.
* In addition, Telstra will apply a one-off credit to the value of $500 inc. GST to the customer’s Telstra fixed phone account to help cover the costs of the following, if required:
* Connection of a Telstra fixed phone service at one temporary residence
*Re-connection of a Telstra fixed phone service at the customer’s original permanent premises
Other carriers will offer similar deals so make sure you contact them and if they don't, use the above as a starting point to show what Telstra are doing and ask them to match it.
Telstra, Optus and Vodaphone
Optus and Vodaphone have matched Telstra's offer to waive mobile phone service costs for volunteer firefighters. All three will waive volunteer firefighter bills for the months of December and January. For Telstra volunteers need to call 13 22 03. For Optus volunteer firefighters can use the Optus hotline - 1300 301 671 - to arrange the waiver. Vodaphone customer volunteers must call 1300 650 410 or visit a Vodafone store and quote their official volunteer ID number.
Energy Bill Relief
Residential and small business customers who have been impacted by the fires can receive a "temporary freeze" on their accounts. Priority assistance will be provided customers who have recently lost their homes or been evacuated. You can contact the Energy Australia hotline 1800-120-084 or send a direct message via Facebook and Twitter.
Volunteer firefighters can receive a $150 credit per customer for their electricity or gas bills. AGL will also pause the bills for all customers affected by the bushfires. For more information, you can contact AGL on 13-12-45.
Special relief is being offered to volunteer firefighters and customers who have lost their homes. This includes waiving power bills and half-price membership offers. Visit https://energylocals.com.au/hardship for more information.
Australian Government Support
Disaster Recovery Payment
The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP) provides one-off financial assistance to eligible Australians adversely affected by the bushfires. The rate of AGDRP is $1,000 per eligible adult and $400 per eligible child.
On 15 January the government also announced parents eligible for disaster recovery payments who have already received a $400 payment for their children will get an extra $400 to help as students go back to school. They don't need to re-apply as the new payments will flow through like the first ones.
Claims for the initial payments can be lodged with the Department of Human Services for a period up to six months.
AGDRP is available for people who have been seriously injured, have lost their homes or whose homes have been directly damaged, or are the immediate family members of a person who has died, as a direct result of the bushfires. You generally have six months to make a claim but please check due dates and act promptly so you don't miss out.
For more information on eligibility, visit the Department of Human Services website or contact the Australian Government Information Hotline on 180 22 66 for claims assistance.
Disaster Recovery Allowance
The Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA) provides income support payments to employees, primary producers and sole traders who can demonstrate they have experienced a loss of income as a direct result of the bushfires.
DRA provides fortnightly payments for up to 13 weeks up to the applicable rate of Newstart or Youth Allowance, depending on the person's circumstances and is available to Australian residents who are sixteen years and older.
DRA is not available to those already receiving another income support payment or pension such as the Age Pension, Newstart Allowance or Service Pension.You generally have six months to make a claim but please check due dates and act promptly so you don't miss out.
For eligibility information, visit the Department of Human Services website or contact the Australian Government Information Hotline on 180 22 66 for claims for assistance.
Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements The joint Australian, state and territory government Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) provide a range of financial assistance to the natural disaster-declared areas in each state or territory. The available assistance measures include:
* Personal hardship and distress assistance
* Counter disaster operations
* Restoration of essential public assets
* Concessional interest rate loans for small businesses, primary producers and non-profit organisations
* Freight subsidies
* Grants to non-profit organisations.
Small Business Assistance
The Federal Government announced on 20 January top up tax-free grants of up to $50,000 (up from the Cat C Assistance Grants below).
Low Interest loans (at the 10 year Commonwealth Bond rate - currently about 0.6%) are also available of up to $500,000 for businesses that have lost significant assets or had a major dip in revenue as a result of the bushfires. The loan would be for up to 10 years and used for the purposes of restoring or replacing damaged assets and for working capital with repayments suspended for up to two years.
There will be a Small Business Bushfire Financial Support Line to access the information needed to apply for these monies. While the specialist Support Line is being established, businesses can visit www.business.gov.au or call 13 28 46.
Category C Assistance A Community Recovery Fund (CRF) has been activated to further assist bushfire affected communities. Funding is available for a range of measures including targeted community projects and mental health support.
Recovery grants of up to $15,000 also are available for eligible primary producers, small businesses and non-profit organisations.
To apply for a recovery grant, primary producers, small businesses and non-profit organisations can contact the NSW Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593 or visit raa.nsw.gov.au.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will replace passports that have been lost or damaged in declared natural disasters free of charge, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.
ASIC Support for Business
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) may be able to assist if your business is finding it difficult to meet company obligations due to this disaster. ASIC can review late lodgement and late payment fees incurred because of matters outside your control, and may be able to help you get documents and information from its registers. ASIC staff will ask for:
* your name and contact details
* your entity name and company, registration or licence number
* details of your current situation
* details of the late payment or late lodgement fee, or the records that have been lost and what you want them to search on in the registers.
For more information, visit the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) website.
Australian Taxation Office
For identified impacted postcodes, we'll automatically grant deferrals for lodgments and payments due. You, or your agent, don't need to apply for these deferrals.
If you have been affected by this disaster but your postcode is not currently in the identified impacted postcodes list, you don’t need to worry. To help you we can, for example:
* give you extra time to pay your debt or lodge tax forms such as activity statements
* help you find your lost tax file number (TFN) by using methods to verify your identity such as your date of birth, address and bank account details
* re-issue income tax returns, activity statements and notices of assessment
* help you re-construct tax records that are lost or damaged
* fast track any refunds owed
* set up a payment plan tailored to your individual circumstances including interest-free period
* remit penalties or interest charged during the time you have been affected.
When you're ready and if you need assistance, phone our Emergency Support Infoline on 1800 806 218 for help.
NSW Govt Support
Volunteer Firefighters FInancial Support Program
The NSW Government is administering the Commonwealth Government's Volunteer Firefighters’ Financial Support Program, which is designed to help volunteer firefighters who have put time into volunteering in the current fire season, and have incurred a financial cost. The program will provide payments to eligible volunteer firefighters who are self-employed or employed by small and medium businesses, and have lost income.
Payments of up to $300 per day, with a total cap of $6000, will be available in the 2019-20 financial year. The payments are tax-free and not means-tested. If you'd like to register for a financial support payment, you can do so online at https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/register-interest-volunteer-firefighters-financial-support-program
NSW Office of Emergency Management
NSW Government Disaster Relief Grants are available for eligible individuals and families whose homes and essential household contents have been damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster.
To be eligible for this grant you must:
* be a low-income earner and meet an income assets test
* demonstrate that the affected home is your principal place of residence
* not be covered by insurance
* demonstrate that the damage was caused by the disaster
* lodge the application within four months of the disaster occurring Contact the Disaster Welfare Assistance Line on 1800 018 444.
NSW Rural Assistance Authority
To support relief and recovery following a declared natural disaster a range of measures are made available by the NSW Government. These measures include:
* Disaster Recovery Grants
* Disaster Relief Loans
* Primary producers
* Small business
* Non-profit organisations
* Sporting and recreation clubs
* Transport assistance
* Natural Disaster Transport Subsidy (for primary producers)
For more information, including eligibility criteria, see https://www.raa.nsw.gov.au/disaster-assistance.
NSW Local Land Services
Local Land Services and NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) are on the ground providing assistance to landholders who have been impacted by the fires in NSW. We assist with:
* emergency fodder
* emergency stock
* veterinary assistance
* livestock euthanasia and burial
* livestock feeding and management advice
* care of animals in evacuation centres Bee keepers are also eligible for assistance if affected by fire, just like other animal managers. If you require emergency assistance to care for your hives as a result of the recent fires, call the Agriculture and Animal Services Hotline. If you, or your community have been affected by the fires and have concerns about your livestock, pets, companion animals or wildlife, call the Agriculture and Animal Services Hotline on 1800 814 647 for assistance.
For more information, including eligibility criteria, see https://www.lls.nsw.gov.au/emergency/bushfires.
Vic Government Support
Disaster Recovery Allowance
Disaster Recovery Allowance(DRA) is a short term payment to help you if a declared disaster directly affects your income. You can get it for a maximum of 13 weeks. DRA is a taxable payment. You can ask us to withhold voluntary tax deductions from your payments.
To get Disaster Recovery Allowance you must:
* be 16 years or older at the time of the fire and not a dependent child
* be an Australian resident or hold an eligible visa
* get an income by working in an affected Local Government Area or live in an affected Local Government Area
* lose income as a direct result of the Victorian Bushfires
* show you will earn less than the relevant income threshold amount in the fortnight following the loss of income.
You must not get the following payments for the same period you’re claiming this payment:
* an income support payment or pension
* Farm Household Allowance, or
* a Service Pension from the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
The maximum payment rate is the equivalent of Newstart or Youth Allowance, based on your circumstances. Your rate of payment will be affected by your income prior to and following the disaster and there are income thresholders. You can call to claim 180 22 66 or find out more and apply here https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/victorian-bushfires-december-2019-disaster-recovery-allowance
Clean Up and Restoration Grants
Grants of up to $10,000 are now available to eligible primary producers
to cover the costs of
equipment and materials to undertake clean-up.additional labour costs (above and beyond normal wage expenditure).disposing of damaged goods and injured or dead stock.cost of disposal.repairs to buildings (other than housing).fencing not covered by any other assistance.reconditioning/repairing essential plant and equipment.replacement of deceased livestock.salvaging, or re-establishing pastures and/or fodder crops (e.g. seed and fertiliser).health maintenance for livestock and poultry.purchase of fodder (not covered by other assistance).purchase or hire/lease costs for equipment essential to the immediate resumption of farming.replacement of essential water used by fire fighting.water cartage.
Applicants are encouraged to contact the Bendigo office on 1800 260 425 to discuss their needs.
Concessional interest rate loans are available to eligible primary producers, small business and not-for-profit organisations. The applicable concessional interest rate for loans is 0.82% for the 2019/20 financial year. This rate is subject to an annual review over the 5 year concessional interest rate period (loans revert to a commercial rate of interest after the concessional 5 year period). Application fees will not apply however statutory costs and other charges to establish loan securities will apply.
Applicants are encouraged to contact our Bendigo office on 1800 260 425 to discuss their needs.
Airbnb has launched its Open Homes Disaster Relief program in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, where people can list their homes at no cost to offer free accommodation to emergency service workers and people fleeing the bushfires.
The Australian Department of Defence has opened bases from Brisbane to Adelaide for people in need of short-term evacuation assistance and shelter, at:
Home & Contents Insurance Claims
Obviously the reason you have insurance is for situations such as this. Many insurance companies are offering payment for accomodation, immediate cash grants and more so make sure you contact them as soon as possible. I've listed the Insurance Council of Australia's claims process key steps below so you can start to understand the process as well as phone numbers and anything particular insurance companies are doing (as I did for the Banks example above).
The most important thing to understand is not to panic if you've lost your paperwork. Your insurer will have secure electronic records of your insurance policy. So even if you can't find policy paperwork, or you've lost it, your insurer can still help you.
The Insurance Council of Australia has also established a disaster hotline for general information about claims and help locating your insurer if you've lost or forgotten your details. The hotline is 1800 734 621. You can also visit www.disasters.org.au.
You can also access ALL emergency contacts for home insurance at Finder's link here https://www.finder.com.au/emergency-contacts-for-home-insurance
1. Make a claim - Contact your insurer as soon as possible to lodge a claim.
2. Create an inventory - Create a list of damaged or lost items. Items that may pose a health hazard can be discarded after being photographed and keep a sample.
3 Work with your assessor - Many claims will involve a visit from an insurance assessor. Working with the assessor will speed up your claim.
4 Quotes & scopes of work - You may be asked to source your own quotes for repairs. Review the scope of work carefully and ensure nothing is missing. If you have concerns about the scope of work, speak to your insurer.
5 Repairs, replacement, settlement - In large disasters, insurers will prioritise repairs for those most in need and may offer cash settlements.
6 Something you don’t understand? - Got a question, get in touch with the ICA.
Hopefully your insurer will accept your claim. If this doesn't happen you have the option of filing an internal dispute with your insurer. And if that doesn't work you can also file a complaint with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.
For the first time ever, QBE has announced it will waive excess payments for bushfire-related insurance claims for individual policy holders