On Saturday (26 June), the NSW government announced that everyone who has been in Greater Sydney for any reason since Monday, 21 June 2021 – including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour – would need to enter a 14-day lockdown period.
The stay-at-home rules require everyone who lives, works, is educated or has visited Greater Sydney to remain in place at home until 11.59pm on Friday, 9 July.
The only allowed reasons for leaving home include:
- To buy food or other essential goods and services;
- Travel for work or education if it is not possible to do it at home
- Medical or caring reasons, including obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination
- Moving house
- Undertaking legal obligations
- Avoiding injury or illness or to escape the risk of harm
- Compassionate reasons
- Pastoral work for religious figures
Given the two-week shutdown, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed the Commonwealth disaster recovery payments of up to $500 per week will be made available to those impacted by the lockdowns, both in Sydney and Melbourne (more details yet to be announced).
Lenders have also begun offering relief measures to borrowers to help ease the burden during lockdown.
Small business and home loan customers of ANZ affected by the latest COVID-19 lockdown in NSW will be able to access measures such as:
- Short-term payment relief (including on asset finance and business loans)
- Waived fees
- Restructuring home loan debt or switching to a fixed rate loan.
- Refunds on merchant terminal fees
Mark Hand, ANZ’s group executive Australia, retail and commercial banking, said: “We know this lockdown will have a big impact on our customers in and around Sydney. Like the lockdowns we’ve seen in other states, we know it can be some time before the real effects are felt by families and businesses.
“We want our customers to know there is help available if they need it in this difficult time. Our teams are standing ready to assist and will work with customers to understand their specific needs and help tailor individual solutions.”
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is also enabling access to a raft of support and assistance measures.
For business customers, these include:
- Repayment deferrals on asset finance and eligible business loans;
- Refunds of merchant terminal fees for up to 90 days for eligible customers;
- Waivers on fees and notice periods on Cash Deposit and Farm Management Deposit accounts; and
- Tailored support for larger business customers.
For retail customers, support includes:
- Accessing money in redraw or everyday offsets (on eligible loans);
- Restructuring home loan debt;
- Switching to a fixed rate home loan;
- Reducing repayments to the minimum monthly repayment amount; and
- CBA has 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.
CBA CEO Matt Comyn said: “We want to assure any of our customers who need assistance during this difficult time that we have measures in place to support them, including short-term repayment deferrals. Our teams are here to help them and can tailor solutions to suit their different circumstances.
“We know this lockdown will have an impact on the Sydney-based business community, and we’ve been speaking to our customers to understand 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.”
He continued: “We have been able to provide a lot of support for our New South Wales customers over the past year and a half through COVID and we are here to help anyone who needs support during this latest difficult time...
“We would encourage anyone who banks with us and are facing difficulties to get in touch with us. This is a time for us to come together again and support our customers.”
NAB has said that it will be helping impacted business customers by offering:
- Restructured business facilities along with reduced or waived applications fees;
- Deferred principal payments across multiple product options;
- Waived costs and charges for withdrawing term deposits early giving customers quick access to cash flow;
- Relief on credit card and personal loans; and
- Professional wellbeing support.
Meanwhile, support for individual customers includes:
- Providing a temporary reduced payment arrangement;
- Giving a temporary payment break;
- Restructuring a home loan or consolidating debts (where appropriate); and
- Wellbeing and financial counselling support.
NAB group executive for business and private bank, Andrew Irvine, stated: “Australians have shown how resilient they are right throughout this pandemic, and together we will continue to get through this.
“Our bankers will work with customers to understand their individual situation, the pressures they’re under and how we can then tailor support specifically for them.
“Our bankers are experienced and well versed with helping step customers through things and be able to put in place solutions to help.”
As well as supporting Sydneysiders, Westpac has said it will also offer support to help its customers in the Northern Territory that are impacted by restrictions until 1pm Friday (2 July).
Support measures for both impacted areas are now available.
To help business customers, Westpac said it would offer:
- Case management support for small-business customers experiencing financial difficulty.
- Reduced or deferred repayments on asset and equipment finance and eligible business loans.
- Business loan restructuring with no fees incurred.
- Referrals to financial counsellors or other support services.
For retail customers, the bank is offering:
- Credit card repayment and interest rate reductions for a period of time.
- 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.
- Referrals to financial counsellors or other support services.
Chris de Bruin, Westpac’s chief executive consumer and business banking, commented: “We want our customers to know we are here to support them through this period. Westpac offers a range of options tailored to suit the customer’s individual circumstances, including reduced or deferred repayments and low interest rate loans.
“We have specialist support teams ready to assist customers and we’re here to help them get back on their feet,” Mr de Bruin said.
Suncorp Bank has also offered assistance to individual customers impacted, including: deferral of scheduled loan repayments, moving to interest-only repayments; and waiver of fees for early withdrawal of term deposits.
Customers are also advised they can access funds in their mortgage offset accounts, reduce loan repayments to the minimum levels or discuss restructuring their borrowing.
Suncorp Bank CEO Clive van Horen said: “The pandemic continues to challenge us, and we urge our banking customers who may be impacted by the latest outbreak in New South Wales to contact us immediately to discuss the financial support options available to them.
“It’s important our customers know they aren’t alone, and we are here to help them,” Mr van Horen said.
[Related: Banks offer relief for flood-hit Victorians]
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.