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Relief packages extended for bushfire victims

by Annie Kane7 minute read

Lenders have begun extending their relief packages for bushfire victims as the fire crisis continues, with major banks also launching million-dollar donation packages to aid recovery.

While a number of lenders announced bushfire relief packages in November of last year when the bushfires started, several have now extended these, given the ongoing crisis, and also announced million-dollar donation packages.

The major banks have all now issued updates regarding their financial assistance packages for bushfire victims.

ANZ

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ANZ is encouraging customers affected by the fires to contact the bank, when appropriate, so they can discuss access to the bank's financial relief package, which includes: 

  • The ability to suspend repayments on loans, including credit cards, for up to three months (which may include interest capitalisation);
  • Temporary interest rate relief on lending for customers experiencing extreme financial distress in areas impacted by the fires;
  • Waiving of fees associated with restructuring business loans considered necessary due to bushfire impacts;
  • Access to term deposits early without incurring any fees; and
  • Assistance for affected customers with ANZ Home and Contents insurance as they may be eligible for measures such as emergency funds and temporary accommodation.

ANZ has also extended special paid leave for employees who volunteer in emergency services to ensure they are financially supported while they serve the community.

Kath Bray, ANZ’s general managing director, retail banking, said: “Safety is the number one priority at the moment for those in the path of these fires, including the brave firefighters who risk so much to protect us.

“When the time is right to focus on recovering and rebuilding, we hope these relief measures help our customers in some way as they deal with this terrible experience.

“We have also provided additional leave for our employees who volunteer with emergency services as they may need to spend more time in the field this summer,” Ms Bray said.

CBA

CBA has put in place special arrangements to provide support to its bank and insurance customers should they need it, and has said it will offer emergency accommodation for CommInsure customers whose homes have been damaged and expedite their insurance claims.

The bank has also said it will provide further assistance, fee waiving and loan restructuring for CBA home loan, credit card and personal loan customers who are affected and may experience difficulties because of this, and will consider requests for additional loans, including emergency credit limit increases (subject to credit approval).

“Our thoughts are with everyone impacted, and we thank the emergency services who are working tirelessly to protect the community,” the bank said in a statement.

“We understand that each customer will have different needs, and we encourage our affected customers to discuss their individual circumstances with us.”

NAB

NAB expanded its bushfire relief package, which was announced for affected customers in NSW and Queensland in November 2019 to customers in South Australia.

Measures available to customers include:

  • Credit card and personal loan relief where appropriate;
  • Suspending home and personal loan repayments;
  • Support to manage existing regional and agribusiness bank facilities;
  • Waiving costs and charges for withdrawing term deposits early;
  • Waiving home loan and personal loan application fees;
  • Support to restructure other existing bank facilities; and
  • Provision of support and counselling by making NAB’s Employee Assistance Program available to customers.

NAB also said it has donated $50,000 to local charities supporting relief and recovery efforts in the region and $50,000 to Australian Red Cross for its ongoing emergency work.

Mike Baird, NAB’s chief customer officer, consumer banking, commented: “The damage caused is already extensive, and with more challenging conditions in coming days, families and businesses face uncertainty.

“Our customers are reporting significant impacts, including severe damage to wineries, grazing properties and other horticulture operations, as well as people’s homes; we want to assure all of our customers that we are there to help them through.”

Like ANZ, the bank has also extended special “crisis leave” for employees who volunteer in emergency services to ensure they are financially supported while they serve the community.

Westpac

Westpac has also extended its assistance package. The Westpac Disaster Relief Package offers various options to affected customers, including: deferred payments for three months, loan restructuring (without incurring the usual bank fees such as establishment fees and break costs), discounted personal loans for customers wishing to purchase replacement goods; waived interest rate adjustments for affected customers wishing to withdraw term deposits, and assistance for insurance customers in accessing emergency accommodation.

Jane Watts, general manager for Westpac, commented: “Our thoughts are with our affected communities during what has been a difficult and emotionally gruelling time, and we want our customers to know we are here to help.”

All the banks are urging affected customers to contact their banks “as soon as possible” to discuss their circumstances and apply for relief.

The extended packages come as the major banks also announce million-dollar donation packages to support the individuals, communities and organisations affected by the bushfires.

ANZ, CBA and NAB have all announced $1-million packages to support customers and communities affected by the bushfire emergency unfolding across Australia. Westpac has gone a step further, announcing a $1.5-million fund.

These funds are in addition to any previously announced initiatives.

HOW YOU CAN DONATE

There have been many fundraisers and appeals set up by charities, organisations and individuals to help support victims of the bushfires and support those on the front line.

Some of the major appeals include:

[Related: Call for brokers to help regional businesses]

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Annie Kane

Annie Kane

AUTHOR

Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.

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