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Westpac Group has announced that it will provide additional relief to consumers, business and the broader community affected by the ongoing bushfire crisis as part of its extended Bushfire Recovery Support Package.
Among the new provisions to the previously-announced package is a commitment from Westpac to spare its mortgage customers that have lost their principal place of residence due to the bushfires from their repayment obligations for a year. The major bank has said it will cover repayments of up to $1,200 per month.
The support package also includes:
- interest-free home loans for customers to cover the gap between insurance payouts and rebuilding costs, approved subject to Westpac’s credit criteria ($250 million allocation);
- up to $2,000 in emergency cash grants for customers whose residential properties or businesses have been destroyed or damaged by the bushfires ($3 million allocation, up from $500,000);
- a grant of up to $15,000 to assist small businesses with the cost of refurbishing premises that have been destroyed during the bushfires;
- 2.83 per cent three-year variable rate rebuilding loans for business customers of up to $1 million ($1 billion allocation);
- no foreclosures for three years on any farming businesses in bushfire-ravaged locations; and
- fast-tracked credit approvals to provide short-term assistance for businesses.
Westpac has also announced that it will provide additional monetary support for the broader community, which includes:
- a $500,000 donation to Financial Counselling Australia to provide financial counselling services to people in affected towns and regions to help them through the recovery and rebuild;
- access to the Disaster Relief Package for volunteer firefighters across the country;
- the creation of a new role - a CEO of bushfire recovery - to lead and oversee Westpac’s response, which includes mobile customer support teams for localised decision making.
Peter King, Westpac’s acting CEO, commented: “These initiatives are designed to provide practical, on-the-ground support for our customers, our people and for those who are caring for affected communities.
“In times of such unprecedented devastation, we want customers and communities to know we’re here to help alleviate financial concerns so they can rebuild their lives, homes and businesses.”
Mr King concluded: “Anyone who needs assistance or support should contact their local branch, relationship manager or call our Westpac Assist team on 1800 067 497 as soon as possible to discuss their circumstances.”
These latest provisions are in addition to the establishment of Westpac’s $1.5-million Bushfire Fund announced earlier this month, which includes:
- $300,000 to state-based volunteer fire services to continue to support the emergency workers on the front line;
- $250,000 to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to provide grants to impacted communities to support recovery and rebuild efforts; and
- $100,000 to the newly established Victoria Bushfire Appeal.
Westpac’s big four peers, along with many other lenders, have also recently announced extended relief packages for customers that are bushfire victims in a bid to provide some financial relief during this ongoing crisis.