The Australian Banking Association (ABA) has urged customers in Victoria who have been impacted by the latest extended circuit breaker lockdown amid a coronavirus pandemic outbreak in the state to contact their banks to access the support measures that are available.
The state’s snap lockdown period, which was due to end on Thursday, 3 June, has been extended further and is expected to end on Thursday, 10 June.
According to the ABA, the types of assistance offered would depend on the individual circumstances of customers but could include adjustment to loan repayments, waiving fees and charges, interest-free periods or no interest rate increases, and debt consolidation to help make repayments more manageable.
The ABA also said that customers who are concerned about their finances can access the Financial Assistance Hub to understand the options that may be available to them.
It added that bank branches have remained open as an essential service during the Victorian lockdown.
As such the major banks have announced support measures for customers in Victoria impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown, including access for business customers to the federal government-backed Small-to-Medium Enterprise (SME) Loan Recovery Scheme.
ANZ has announced an extended support package for small business and home loan customers affected by the latest COVID-19 lockdown in Victoria.
For home loan customers who apply for the support, measures would include deferring or temporarily reducing loan repayments, waiving fees, restructuring home loan debt or switching to a fixed rate loan, the major bank said.
Business customers can defer payments on asset finance or business loans, receive a refund on merchant terminal fees, and have some other fees waived, it added.
In addition, business customers can utilise loans provided through the SME Loan Recovery Scheme, which it said would offer eligible businesses discounted interest rates on loans of up to $5 million.
Speaking about the measures, ANZ’s group executive Australia retail and commercial banking, Mark Hand, said: “We all know that this latest lockdown in Victoria will be a major blow to many of our retail and business customers.
“We want our customers to feel supported in these difficult times, and we’ve increased our resources so that people seeking assistance will find the helping hand they need. Many Victorians have shown great resolve during this crisis, and our people are here to help them through the next stage.”
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has announced an expanded package of financial support for personal and business customers impacted by the Victorian lockdown.
For personal customers, short-term repayment deferrals are available, while business customers can access a range of measures including CBA loans provided through the SME Loan Recovery Scheme.
Under the scheme, eligible businesses can access loans of up to $5 million with variable interest rates from 2.6 per cent per annum for secured loans and from 2.85 per cent per annum for secured loans with a repayment holiday from 12 months. Unsecured loans are available with rates from 3.25 per cent per annum and from 3.75 per cent per annum with a repayment holiday from 12 months, the major bank explained.
The availability of short-term repayment deferrals is in addition to CBA’s coronavirus hardship support package, which include:
- Accessing money customers may have in redraw in the eligible loan;
- Restructuring their home loan debt;
- Switching to a fixed rate home loan;
- Reducing repayments to the minimum monthly repayment amount; and
- Using money in the everyday offset (if available to the customer).
CBA said that it also introduced a freeze on forced sales until September 2021 this year for eligible customers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic who are struggling with repayments.
Other measures for SME customers impacted by the current lockdown include:
- Repayment deferrals on asset finance and eligible business loans;
- A refund of merchant terminal fees for up to 90 days for eligible customers;
- A waiving of fees and notice periods on cash deposit and farm management deposit accounts for eligible customers; and
- Specialised tailored support for larger business customers.
Commenting on the measures, CBA CEO Matt Comyn said: “We know the latest lockdown will have an impact on the Victorian business community, and we’ve been speaking to our customers to understand how they are faring and if they need assistance. Our business customers have demonstrated great resilience throughout the pandemic and we’re committed to doing what we can to help them through this lockdown period and beyond.
“We have a range of measures to help businesses to free up cash flow and provide some certainty, whether it's through loan deferrals, fee refunds or new low-cost funding through the SME Recovery Loan Scheme. As well as helping to deliver vital cash flow and provide peace of mind during this challenging time, these funds have allowed many businesses to adapt and innovate their operations, such as transitioning online.”
National Australia Bank (NAB) has announced support for its Victorian business customers impacted by the latest lockdown, including financial and mental health support.
The major bank said that support available to businesses could include:
- Restructuring of business facilities along with reduced or waived applications fees;
- Deferral of principal payments across different products;
- Waiving costs and charges for withdrawing term deposits early to give customers access to cash flow;
- Credit card and personal loan relief; and
- MyCoach wellbeing support for colleagues and customers.
Andrew Irvine, group executive for NAB’s business and private bank, said: “Our bankers are still dedicated to checking in one-on-one with our business customers to talk about their particular situation. Once we’re able to understand exactly where a business is at, the pressures and the future opportunities, we can then tailor support specifically for them.
“This support can be financial solutions, but it can also be mental health support through one of our professional providers. We have bankers who are experienced and well versed with helping businesses make quick decisions and put in place solutions to help them get through this.”
Similarly, Westpac has outlined support measures available to individual and business customers impacted by the latest Victorian lockdown, and said customers can access the support team for tailored financial assistance to suit their circumstances.
For individual customers, support could include:
- Home or personal loan repayment deferrals or reductions, interest rate reductions, and loan term extensions;
- Fee waivers across a range of products;
- Restructuring of debt;
- Credit card repayment and interest rate reductions for a period of time; and
- Referrals to financial counsellors or other support services.
For business customers, measures may include:
- Reduced or deferred repayments on asset and equipment finance and eligible business loans;
- Business loan restructuring with no fees incurred;
- Access to low interest rate business loans through the SME Recovery Loan Scheme;
- Case management support for business customers experiencing financial hardship; and
- Referrals to financial counsellors or other support services.
Westpac CEO consumer and business banking Chris de Bruin said: “We know that many households and businesses have been impacted by the lockdowns in Victoria, and we want our customers to know that we are here to support them through this time.
“In particular, small businesses in hospitality and tourism, retail and service-based industries are doing it tough. Westpac offers a range of measures to help, including reduced or deferred repayments, and low interest rate loans.
“Westpac has helped more than 33,000 businesses and 148,000 home owners with financial support during COVID-19, and we will continue to do our part in supporting customers dealing with the ongoing impacts of this pandemic.”
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Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.
Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.