Guide to government and banks' NSW flood financial relief
A storm of the century has been tearing through New South Wales, causing widespread flooding across the state and forcing thousands of people to evacuate over the weekend. Right now flood evacuation orders are in place for several towns and suburbs including Brushgrove and Cowper, Moree and Ulmarra as well as areas along the Hawkesbury River including Colo River, Agnes Banks and Freemans Reach.
Although the rain has now eased, authorities are urging people to remain vigilant as some rivers have yet to reach their peak levels. In the meantime, the government and the banks have also rolled out a number of financial support measures for households and businesses affected by the floods.
Read on for a snapshot of their flood relief packages and details on how to access them.
Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment
The government is offering disaster relief payments to residents in 34 local government areas in NSW. Anyone in those areas who has suffered serious injury or property damage or lost their homes can contact Services Australia on 180 22 66 to claim an one-off payment of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child. You have until 10 September 2021 to lodge your claim.
Here are the eligible areas: Armidale, Bellingen, Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Camden, Campbelltown, Canterbury Bankstown, Central Coast, Cessnock, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Cumberland, Dungog Shire, Fairfield, Hawkesbury, Hornsby, Inner West, Kempsey, Ku-ring-gai, Lake Macquarie, Liverpool, Maitland, Mid-Coast, Nambucca, Newcastle, Northern Beaches, Parramatta, Penrith, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Port Stephens, Sutherland, Tenterfield, The Hills and Wollondilly.
“[The payments] can be processed over the phone. You just need to provide your details and explain your circumstances to them, and we can arrange those payments to you as quickly as possible,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Disaster Recovery Allowance
There is also support available for any employees, primary producers or sole traders who have lost income due to the storms and floods. If eligible, you’ll be able to access fortnightly income support payments for up to 13 weeks, at the rate of JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance depending on your circumstances.
Once again, you must be a resident in one of the 34 local government areas and lodge your claim by 10 September 2021.
Big bank support
All of the big four banks have announced emergency support packages spanning from deferred repayments to waived fees, to assist customers and businesses impacted by the NSW floods. The Commonwealth Bank and Westpac have since extended their relief measures to Queensland residents as well.
CommBank has introduced a range of special arrangements for its banking and home and contents insurance customers affected by the floods. Depending on their specific needs, impacted customers can access options including:
- Customised payment arrangements for your home loan, personal loan or credit card
- Waived fees and charges
- Temporary overdrafts, additional loans or emergency credit limit increases (subject to credit approval)
- For CommInsure customers: emergency accommodation if your home is damaged and an expedited claims process.
Get in touch: CommBank is encouraging affected customers to either visit them in branch or call 1800 314 695 to discuss their situation. Business customers can also call this number or reach out to their dedicated CommBank relationship manager.
ANZ is also urging impacted customers to reach out and discuss how they’ve been affected by the floods. To help customers recover from the devastation, ANZ is providing the following relief measures:
- Paused payments for up to 3 months on home loans, personal loans, credit cards and some business loans (interest capitalisation applies)
- Temporary rate reductions on loans for customers under extreme financial distress
- Waived fees for access term deposits early
- Waived fees for restructuring business loans
- For ANZ Home and Contents Insurance customers: access to emergency funds and temporary accommodation, depending on the terms of their policy.
Get in touch: If you’re able to, visit your local ANZ branch or get in touch with your relationship manager. Alternatively, you can contact ANZ’s dedicated financial hardship team on 1800 149 549 or over at anz.com.au/support/natural-disaster-support/.
Westpac has stepped in with an emergency assistance package as well. The bank has said that its customer assistance team is on standby to respond to any urgent calls, and to help its home insurance customers, Westpac has added extra claims consultants and mobilised local builders.
Business and retail customers can access support measures such as:
- Deferred home loan repayments for up to 3 months
- Deferred credit card repayments for up to 90 days
- Personal loans at a discounted rate with no establishment fee, for customers who need to purchase replacement goods
- Waived rate penalties for customers withdrawing term deposits early
- Waived fees for restructuring business loans
- For Westpac home and Contents Insurance customers: access to emergency funds and temporary accommodation, depending on the terms of their policy.
More recently, Westpac has also announced emergency grants for customers and employees who have been severely impacted by the floods:
- Up to $3,000 per household to help cover essential expenses
- Up to $5,000 per business to help with repairs and costs like the loss of equipment and stock.
Get in touch: If you need urgent access to support, contact Westpac Assist on 1800 067 497. Home and contents insurance customers can ring 1300 369 989 (available 24/7) or visit the Westpac website to make a claim.
NAB has also placed a series of immediate relief measures on the table for its customers. These include:
- Credit card and personal loan relief
- Deferred principal and/or leasing payments
- Waived application fees and charges for withdrawing term deposits early
- Waived application fee for restructuring business facilities.
NAB has said it will provide struggling customers with access to complementary professional and confidential counselling.
In addition, like Westpac, NAB is providing instant $2,000 grants to affected customers and colleagues. These grants can be used to cover costs such as temporary accommodation, food and clothing, or if you're a business, they can be used to fund repairs to damaged property, equipment and fencing, or as compensation for loss of inventory and livestock.
Get in touch: Visit your local branch if it is safe to do so, call NAB Assist on 1800 701 599 (8am-8pm Mon-Fri, or 9am-1pm on Saturdays AEST/AEDT) or visit nab.com.au/disaster. Small businesses who need help can reach NAB at 1300 961 577, and if they're wishing to access the grants, they should call 1300 769 650. For emergency claims or general insurance inquiries, call 1300 555 013, and for property and vehicle insurance assistance, call 132 652.
Other bank support
ABA member banks
Besides the big four, the other 18 member banks of the Australian Banking Association (ABA) have all stepped in with a range of services to support customers doing it tough right now. These include:
- Deferred loan and credit card repayments
- Deferred interest repayments (case by case basis)
- Increased emergency credit card limits
- Waived fees and charges including break costs when accessing your term deposits early
- Debt consolidation to help make repayments more manageable
- Waived fees for restructuring existing loans
- Access to additional finance to help with cashflow shortages
“The message from the banks is clear: don’t tough it out on your own, your bank is ready to help,” ABA’s chief executive officer, Anna Bligh said.
Get in touch: If you're a customer of an ABA member bank, you can visit this page to find out the contact details of your bank as well as further information on their financial hardship options to help you and your family through this crisis.
Heritage Bank has also joined in with a flood relief package to help customers and staff members in NSW and Queensland through this difficult time. In addition to its existing hardship policy, Heritage Bank is offering support measures in the form of:
- Waived fees for structuring loans
- Waived or refunded fees for missed repayments or other unmet loan commitments
- Early access to term deposits and farm deposit management accounts without fees or penalties
- For customers who have lost their homes or vehicles and are insured through Allianz: fast-tracked claims and calls escalated to a flood specific claims officer if needed
Get in touch: Contact Heritage Bank on 13 14 22 (available 24/7) to talk through your options.
Hotlines for flood-affected residents
The Insurance Council of Australia has activated its disaster hotline for any individuals who have questions about their insurance policy or the claims process. Call 1800 734 621 if you have any inquiries.
Meanwhile if you’re looking for general advice on flood-affected areas, the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) has advised people to call the public information inquiry centre hotline on 1800 227 228.
For emergency assistance in storms and floods, contact the NSW SES on 132 500, or dial 000 (triple zero) if the situation is life threatening.
Making a home insurance claim
While this is a stressful and devastating time, it is important that you contact your insurance company as soon as possible to go through your next steps if your home has been damaged or lost to the floods. Your insurance company can help you get back on your feet by providing information on requirements for a successful claim, and they may even be able to offer you emergency funds or accommodation.
If it is safe to do so, gather evidence on what’s been damaged on your property. This will involve taking photographs and videos as well as making a list of all the damage, from the furniture to the door frames.
Also beware of ‘storm chasers’. According to Westpac, there is a growing number of cases of people falling victim to unethical operators who may door knock or drop brochures offering inspection reports or emergency repairs. If you find yourself in this situation, check their reviews online or call your insurance company first.
Read our article for more information on adding flood cover to your home insurance.