Australia is currently experiencing catastrophic bushfires.
The impacts of the ongoing bushfire crisis are devastating.
Fires are still burning in several states and impacting air quality across the nation.
Amongst the relief and support programs to support communities impacted by the bushfire are emergency initiatives rolled out by the Australian banking sector, the Mortgage Brokering industry, and the Australian Tax Office.
The Australian banking sector
In a bid to provide some relief during this ongoing crisis, a number of banks have rolled out emergency relief and assistance programs for customers impacted by the bushfire emergency.
The type of relief available includes:
- Deferred scheduled loan repayments upon request
- Some fee and charge waivers, including break costs on early redemption of farm management deposits
- Banks may defer interest payments (on a case-by-case basis)
- Restructuring loans free of the usual establishment fees and enabling debt consolidation to make prepayments more manageable
- Additional finance to help cover cash flow shortages
- As well as measures to help small businesses through the recovery
It’s very important to note that the type of support offered will vary between banks.
If you’re impacted by the bushfires and require support, please contact your bank to discuss what assistance they can provide you.
Dedicated phone contact numbers for emergency relief
CBA – 1300 720 814
Westpac – 1800 067 497
NAB – 1800 067 497
ANZ 1800 149 549
ING – 133 464
Bank Australia – 132 888
Bank of QLD – 1800 079 866
Bendigo Bank – 1300 652 146
Adelaide Bank – 1300 650 259
Rural Bank – 1300 660 115
ME Bank – 13 15 63
MyState – 138 001
Resimac – 1300 793 741
Firstmac – 13 12 20
Suncorp – 13 11 55
Macquarie – 1300 363 330
AMP – 133 888
Bank of Melbourne – 1300 020 266
BankWest – 1300 020 266
Citibank – 1800 020 266
Heritage – 12 14 22
Citibank – 1800 110 924
LaTrobe – 13 80 10
St George – 1300 655 489
Virgin Money – 1900 701 997
The four major banks have also set up bushfire funds.
ANZ has pledged:
- Half a million dollars to support local community services, as well as home loan customers who have lost their homes to bushfires and are suffering ongoing financial hardship
- $300,000 to volunteer fire services across NSW, Victoria and South Australia
- $100,000 to match employee donations to volunteer fire services
CBA bushfire relief package
The Commonwealth Bank’s (CBA) $1 million bushfire disaster relief package includes:
- $750,000 worth of grants to help support local communities and replace facilities lost in the fires
- $250,000 donation to the Australian Red Cross
CBA’s bushfire recovery grants will provide:
- Up to $20,000 available to assist with the replacement and repair of lost or damaged community facilities due to bushfires.
- Community organisations, schools and local fire brigades are able to register for support from until 31 March 2020.
NAB Disaster Relief Fund
National Australian Bank (NAB) has created a $5 million Disaster Relief Fund. The fund will give customers and employees displaced from their homes ready access to cash, as well as support in the months ahead as communities, rebuild homes and businesses.
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.
NAB employees who have had to evacuate their homes can also access a $1,000 grant.
Westpac Bushfire Fund
The $1.5 million Westpac Bushfire Fund will include:
- $500,000 in grants to support customers and employees whose properties have been destroyed or damaged
- $300,000 to volunteer fire services
- $250,000 to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to provide grants to impacted communities to support recovery and rebuild efforts
- $100,000 to the Victoria Bushfire Appeal
- $350,000 for rebuilding and recovery support
Mortgage Brokering community
The mortgage brokering community has joined forces to launch the Mortgage and Finance Industry Bushfire Relief fund via the Red Cross to raise funds for affected communities.
The appeal aims to raise $750,000.
You can donate to the Broker Bushfire Appeal via the link below:
Where to donate
As well as the Broker Bushfire Appeal, many charities, organisations and individuals have set up fundraisers and appeals.
Some of the major appeals and places to donate include:
- Red Cross
- Salvation Army
- NSW Rural Fire Service
- QLD Fire and Rescue
- SA Country Fire Service
- VIC Country Fire Authority
- Tasmania Fire Service
- Western Australia Department of Fire & Emergency Services
- AFCA bushfire disaster support
Government support for small businesses
On Monday, January 20, the federal government announced measures to provide support to small businesses impacted by the bushfire crisis. These measures are in addition to relief and support provided by the government for people and communities impacted by the bushfires.
The measures include:
- Loans of up to $500,000 with zero interest for two years
- Grants of up to $50,000
- $3.5-million Small Business Bushfire Financial Support Line
Loans of up to $500,000 are available businesses that have suffered significant asset loss or a significant loss of revenue as a result of the bushfire crisis.
They’re also available to farmers, primary producers and non-profit organisations.
The loans are for a term of up to 10 years and are to be used to restore/replace damaged assets and for working capital.
The grants program, which is uncapped, will enable businesses and organisations that have sustained damage as a result of the fires to access up to $50,000 in grant funding (tax-free).
The $3.5-million Small Business Bushfire Financial Support Line will help provide small businesses with information on the assistance and support available to them. While the specialist Support Line is being established, businesses can visit www.business.gov.au or call 13 28 46.
Australian Taxation Office
If you’re impacted by the bushfire crisis, the tax office doesn’t want you to be concerned about your tax affairs.
Now is the time for you to focus on your family and community.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) can help you sort out your tax affairs later.
The ATO has released updated information on support they can provide to people impacted by the bushfires.
When you’re ready and if you need assistance, the link includes the phone number for the ATO’s Emergency Support Infoline:
The federal government have also announced that disaster relief payments being made to individuals and businesses impacted by the bushfires will be tax-exempt.
Taxpayers in bushfire-impacted postcodes who run businesses will now have until 28 May 2020 to lodge and pay business activity statements and income tax returns.
Impacted businesses that pay their Pay-As-You-Go instalments quarterly will also be allowed to vary these instalments to zero for the December 2019 quarter. They can also claim a refund for any instalments made in the September 2019 quarter.
For the latest information and fire warnings:
New South Wales: www.rfs.nsw.gov.au
Western Australia: myfirewatch.landgate.wa.gov.au
Australian Capital Territory: esa.act.gov.au
South Australia: https://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/warnings_and_incidents.jsp
Northern Territory: https://www.pfes.nt.gov.au/incidentmap
Or the National Relay Service TTY users phone 1800 555 677 then ask for 1800 679 737
In an emergency call: 000
To let people know you’re safe and to find loved ones: register.redcross.org.au
To find a safe place in Victoria when all other plans have failed: saferplaces.cfa.vic.gov.au
If you or someone you care for is feeling unwell in the heat contact Nurse On Call: 1300 606 024
We acknowledge that in many fire-affected areas people have lost, may lose or have minimal access to the internet. However, these numbers and websites may still help someone, so they’re worth sharing.
We’ll keep this post updated as more information becomes available.