Hardship assistance figures triple in a month

Hardship assistance from banks, which includes deferring credit card payments and waiving fees and charges, has almost tripled from 20,000 to 57,000 over the past month as lockdowns continued across Australia.

According to statistics released by the Australian Banking Association (ABA) yesterday, these figures include more than 30,000 loan payment deferrals on home and business loans.

Home loan deferrals have risen to more than 27,000, up from 14,500 last month, and continue to be the most common type of deferral provided to customers, accounting for 88 per cent of all deferrals.

Deferred business loans soared to more than 3,500 from just 600 over the month.

That said, these figures are significantly below the peak assistance provided in 2020, when more than one million home and business loans were deferred.

ABA chief Anna Bligh says most customers taking up hardship and deferral assistance continue to be located in NSW. Indeed, more than half of all hardship (57 per cent), housing deferrals (69 per cent), and business deferrals, (72 per cent), come from this state, followed by Victoria.

“As lockdowns continue to be extended across cities and states, it is no surprise more strain is being put on people and businesses, but it is important to remember that banks are here to help,” says Bligh.

“Support is available to all small businesses and home loan customers significantly impacted by current lockdowns or recovering from recent lockdowns, no matter where they live or their line of work.”

Last month, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission granted interim authorisation to allow the ABA and banks to continue to work together on a variety of existing COVID-19 related relief packages, so they can respond to any further outbreaks as required.

These packages allow for temporary and limited coordination between the ABA and participating banks to defer loan repayments and waive certain banking fees for small businesses impacted by the pandemic. The coordination also allows banks to facilitate second phase financial recovery and maintain access to banking services for small businesses.

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