Resources to help workers during Coronavirus

23 March, 2020 by Brydie Allen

There’s no easy way to write this story or the others that report on the current devastation felt across the industry. 

Working in liquor is precarious right now, and the ever changing circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic make the future near possible to predict. Here at TheShout, National Liquor News, Australian Hotelier and Bars and Clubs, we’ve pulled together everything we can find to help staff going through uncertainty right now, whether you’re full time, part time or casual. 

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We’ll be updating this story as we find out more and the situation changes. If you have any of your own tips to add, you can reach us at any time by emailing editorial@theshout.com.au

Last updated – 27 March

Centrelink

On-premise venues have been forced to close by order of the Federal Government, whereas other types of businesses are changing hours and sometimes closing of their own accord. Exactly what this means for your immediate income will vary depending on your situation and workplace, but regardless, it’s a good idea to think about Centrelink.

If you’re not already getting payments from Centrelink, they’ve set up a help page directory with information about how to check if you’re eligible and what payment may apply to you. 

In recent days, the Government has announced that they have expanded the eligibility criteria, removed waiting periods and will also increase the amount of some payments next month. Plus, there is also the one-off stimulus payments of $750, that are due to start being paid from 31 March.

The first step is to create MyGov and Centrelink online accounts, if you don’t already have them, which you can find steps on how to do here. 

The most important thing to have first is your MyGov account, so you can at least register your intent to claim. If the Centrelink website is too busy for you to create an account and get a Customer Reference Number (CRN), lodging an intent to claim via MyGov will back date your application so you won’t miss out on anything caused by admin waits. Simply log into MyGov to find a big banner with instructions on how to do this.

After lodging this intent, you can request a call back from Centrelink to go through the rest of your application. You can also try online if the system isn’t overloaded, or join the busy phone queues to speak to a representative (see all contact options here). Centrelink have requested people try not to come to a centre in person if not absolutely necessary, as applications can proceed remotely.

Find out what you are eligible for using the Payment and Service Finder here at any time. Follow the prompts through the quiz to find out what is recommended for you and what you will need for your application. The category you will most likely fall into is the Job Seeker payment, because as of 20 March, Newstart no longer exists.

Finding other work

Although no one can predict what will happen next, it’s been tipped that many companies that are considered ‘essential services’ will remain operational throughout the pandemic. And while these jobs are limited, there have been recent calls for more staff in some fields.

Some areas that are reported to be hiring include supermarkets, suppliers that need pickers and packers, and also logistics and delivery companies.

If you’d like a change of scenery, there is the option of going regional or rural for a while, as farms are in need of seasonal labour. With so many of their usual temporary staff being international, there is increased need for farmhands, fruit and veg pickers, and produce packers.

There have also been calls made by organisations including Centrelink, Service NSW and Woolworths for thousands more staff to cope with increased demand. Some have suggested utilising any other skills that you may have to transition into other temporary work, for example, bartender knowledge would be useful in liquor retail and in person customer service skills could transfer easily to virtual or over the phone customer service. 

There’s also the option to do a few small online things to make a little more cash. You can be paid to do online surveys, test apps, try software, or do odd virtual jobs. 

Try checking out job sites like Seek, Indeed and LinkedIn, as well as looking on social media for any call outs. You could also try reaching out to a company directly to see how you could help them. Googling around for online odd jobs is also an idea, just be sure to check the site is credible and secure before giving them your details. 

Withdrawing super

The Government has announced that people financially impacted by COVID-19 will be able to withdraw up to $10,000 from their superannuation per financial year, starting from next month.

Before the announcement, withdrawals from super accounts were heavily taxed, however, withdrawals of up to $10,000 per financial year will be tax-free, meaning people could withdraw up to $20,000 this calendar year. The tax-free withdrawals will be possible for those who are unemployed, or who are eligible for the Coronavirus supplement from Centrelink.

Important note: in recent days, multiple organisations have warned against withdrawing from your super and have said that it should be used as an absolute last resort. Touching your super now will have an affect on it’s balance both in the short term, and also an extremely detrimental impact in the long term – Australian Services Union estimates young people could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in potentially earned interest by withdrawing $10,000 now.

Applying for the withdrawal will be done from mid-April through the ATO, and more information about how to do this will be coming soon. In the meantime, you can read the Government’s fact sheet on this measure here. 

Starting conversations about bills

Rent or mortgage and utilities are areas that will cause some of the most financial issues if you find yourself out of work. Although each situation with different landlords, real estates, providers and lenders are different, from all across the country there has been advice recommending that you start a conversation if you need help and go from there. 

For example, some lenders may offer ‘mortgage repayment holidays’ or paused credit card repayments. These types of measures would extend your loan timeline and potentially add further interest to your loan or card, but could keep you afloat for the time being. Contact your provider and see what they have available, many of them will have FAQs of options on their websites about COVID-19. 

In terms of rent, Tenants.org.au have some really useful insights in a FAQ on their website here. Within it, they say you can attempt to negotiate rent for a short period and even have a template to help. It would be hard for landlords to re-lease your place without losing significant amounts of money right now, so they should be at least open to the conversation.

Currently, the government has the power to protect renters from evictions, as well as act on mortgages (something the big banks have already agreed to). At this stage, they have not used this power yet, but more news on this is expected soon.

Regarding utility bills, try contacting your supplier and asking for a payment plan, or some way they can help you if you’re in financial trouble. Again, losing a customer means less profit for them, so they should have some options available. You can check your provider’s website, or call and ask to speak to a hardship specialist. 

Protecting your health

It’s been said so many times before, but remember to be using good hygiene, wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, and practice social distancing, to limit the spread of infection. 

Your mental health is also important. When you’re looking out for your physical health, make sure to also look out for your mind, and try to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues at least on a virtual level.

Losing even some employment means losing parts of your usual social interactions, and especially with the distancing guidelines being recommended, it’s hard to not feel completely isolated. 

Proactively calling or messaging people can be a great start, but in the age of social media, there is also much more at your fingertips. Join Facebook groups in the industry or your interests, there’s one for almost anything you can think of. 

This industry already has one of the best communities there is, so be sure to tap into that on a virtual level. Let’s all look out for each other. 

There are also a range of helplines you can call if you need help, we’ve listed some below that might be of use to you and your family.

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Mensline: 1300 789 978
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
  • beyondblue: 1300 224 636
  • Headspace: 1800 650 890

Other things you can do:

  • Get involved – As well as the online social communities, there are lots of movements happening right now that you can support. We recently reported on the Keep Our Venues Alive campaign, which is a good place to start.
  • Tell your story – The Hospo Voice union are collecting data to help lobby the Government to support the hospitality industry, through their site I Lost My Hospo Shift. You can also get in touch with us to tell your story – contact editorial@theshout.com.au
  • Keep practicing your craft – being stuck at home is the perfect opportunity to work on your skills, by experimenting with new techniques or recipes. You can also branch out into new areas of the business, and use online resources and courses to understand a different sector of the industry.