Australia has had a catastrophic start to 2020 with the mega blazes that swept the east coast of Australia that were unprecedented in scale and destruction, floods and now the outbreak of Coronavirus. Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has infected over 100,000 people globally and has caused around 3,800 deaths with these numbers continually growing. To provide a clearer picture of the situation, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine developed a new outbreak mapping tool. You can access this here.
Coronavirus has already had a huge impact on the Australian economy, with the hospitality, retail and travel industries being hit the hardest. Many Australians fear the worst with a nation-wide shortage of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, tissues and other items due to panic buying.
The Coronavirus is not only affecting Australian businesses, but may lead to an increase in Australians experiencing financial hardship and stress, especially casual workers who are not entitled to paid leave. Many Australians rely on their income to pay the bills, but if restaurants fold, schools shut down and childcare centres close, this will cause an increased risk of people defaulting on repayments and mortgage arrears.
If your job may be in danger due to the Coronavirus outbreak, it’s important to seek assistance as soon as possible to understand your options and put a plan in place to prevent financial hardship.
How Your Job May Be Affected
The Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary, Sally McManus, told ABC News that Australian workers welcome the Government’s emergency response of giving money to small businesses, however, “you can’t assume that’s going to trickle down to the workers who might be the ones that really bear the costs.”
With casual workers accounting for as many as 2.6 million Australians, the impact of Coronavirus on them and their families may be significant, particularly those working in hospitality and retail. Ms McManus told the Australian that “we are concerned for the estimated 3.3 million workers in Australia who do not have access to any form of paid leave, including sick leave, and what measures the Government will be putting in place to ensure that they do not unfairly bear the brunt of the economic impacts.”
Coronavirus is huge health risk, not just an economic one and it’s feared workers will continue to go to work with possible symptoms because they are unable to afford to isolate themselves.
Many Australian workers face uncertainty and financial stress in the face of the Coronavirus crisis – but there is assistance available to manage the risks.
Managing the Financial Risks of Coronavirus
If you’re worried you may lose your job due to the run-on effects of Coronavirus, there are options available to help protect yourself.
Income Protection Insurance through Superannuation
If you are unable to work due to Coronavirus, you may be eligible to claim income protection insurance through your Superannuation fund. Income protection generally pays you a regular income for a specific period if you can’t work due to a temporary illness. To check what insurance you have in your super you can:
- Call your super fund directly
- Access your super account online
Review Your Budget to Make Changes
Reviewing your budget may allow you to cut expenses and put some extra money into your savings in case you are left jobless due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Expenses such as an unused gym membership, paid streaming services such as Netflix and cutting back on store-bought coffee may provide you with enough extra cash to put into your savings account to cover you if Coronavirus hits your workplace.
Consolidate Your Debt
Debt Consolidation allows you to combine your debts into one, affordable repayment reducing fees and interest. If you have multiple unsecured debts such as credit cards and personal loans, consolidating your debt may free up enough money for you to contribute to your emergency fund in case the Coronavirus forces you out of work.
Take Advantage of a Credit Card Balance Transfer
If you have multiple credit cards, one of the best ways to pay them off quickly is to look around for banks offering credit card transfers. A balance transfer card generally allows you to consolidate your credit card debt into one card with an extremely low interest rate, with some offering 0%. This gives you a reprieve to pay down your credit card debt without paying any extra in interest.
The introductory balance transfer period can last anywhere from 5 to 36 months, after which if you have any remaining debt it will then be charged interest at the higher rate.
Build an Emergency Fund
It’s better to start building your emergency fund sooner rather than later. If you or a loved one catches Coronavirus and you’re forced to self-isolate and stay home from work, it’s important you have an emergency reserve of cash to see you through the 14-day isolation period.
When building your emergency fund, calculate all of your outgoing expenses and income to ensure you have enough money saved to cover you in the event of being out of work for a month. You should be prepared for a worst-case scenario rather than be worried about running out of money halfway through.
As of Today (18 March, 2020)
The Australian Government has increased its measures to help stop the spread of Coronavirus as Victoria is now declared a state of emergency, with the ACT declaring Coronavirus a public health emergency. The declaration gives Victoria the ability to enforce a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people and a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for anyone entering Australia from overseas. These measures, however, have now been implemented Australia-wide, with many sporting events, concerts and conferences across the country cancelled.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told ABC News that "it is precautionary. It is getting ahead of this to ensure we can minimise the impact on your health."
Non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people have also been banned by the Federal Government.
The rising fear of Coronavirus has also caused a spark in Australians panic-buying, with many supermarkets restricting buyers to certain amounts of toilet paper, pasta, canned food and milk. Foreign Minister Marise Payne told ABC News that "it's not necessary. It's not the case that stores are going to close or supplies are going to cease.
Woolworths are now holding a daily shopping hour dedicated to the elderly and people with disabilities who have missed out on food and other goods due to panic buying. Managing Director Claire Peters told SBS News that "this temporary measure will give them (elderly customers), and those with a disability, the opportunity to shop before our stores officially open, helping them obtain essential items they need most in a less crowded environment."
Both Woolworths and Aldi are closing early tonight to allow shelves to be re-stocked.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is urging all Australians overseas to return home as soon as possible, warning people may not be able to return home at a later stage as more countries close borders around the world.
Qantas and Jetstar are slashing 90 per cent of their international flights, as well as 60 per cent of their domestic capacity until May. A statement given to ABC News says that it would mean the grounding of around 150 aircraft.
Virgin Australia is also grounding its international fleet, suspending all international services from March 30 to June 14 and slashing domestic capacity by 50 per cent until June 14. Virgin Australia CEO and managing director Paul Scurrah told ABC News that "we have entered an unprecedented time in the global aviation industry."
"This required us to take significant action to responsibly manage our business while balancing traveller demands and supporting the wellbeing of Australians."
The Australian Government is willing to take further measures if the Coronavirus remains out of control, including the possibility of closing schools, universities and workplaces.
Further Help is Available
If your job has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic or you’re experiencing financial hardship, Debt Rescue can assist. We provide debt relief solutions for all Australians in need, including debt consolidation, Informal Agreements, Formal Part 9 Debt Agreements and Bankruptcy. Contact us today on 1800 560 572 for a free 30-minute consultation to assess your financial situation and discover your options.