Thousands of bank customers seek help with financial hardship as lockdowns bite

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The number of people and small businesses receiving financial aid from banks during the latest lockdowns in New South Wales and Victoria has skyrocketed.

New figures from the Australian Banking Association (ABA) show that more than 57,000 clients are receiving assistance, including more than 30,000 deferrals of mortgage and commercial loans.

An empty street in Canterbury, NSW. Some people have reduced hours or were made redundant during the last lockdowns.Credit:Wolter peeters

The number of individuals and business owners receiving assistance, which includes deferring credit card payments and waiving fees and charges, more than doubled in August compared to July.

Home loan deferrals rose to over 27,000 in August, from around 14,500 in July, while deferred business loans climbed to over 3,500, from just over 600, during the same period .

The majority of clients seeking financial assistance continue to be located in New South Wales, followed by Victoria – the two states with the longest periods of COVID-19 lockdown.

More than half of all hardship aid seekers from the big banks were in New South Wales. There were 32,445 pending hardship approvals in that state, followed by 11,191 in Victoria.

Mortgage repayment holidays are the most common type of deferral offered to clients, with almost 90% related to home loans.

“[However] Over the past month, we’ve seen a substantial increase in the number of business owners reaching out for help, ”said Anna Bligh, CEO of ABA.

“As lockdowns continue to spread across cities and states, it’s no surprise that more pressure is placed on people and businesses, but it’s important to remember that banks are here to help. “said Bligh. “The sooner you talk to your bank, the sooner they can help you find a solution that’s right for you,” she says.


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