COVID-19: Easing money worries

Help with money during the pandemic

Many people are finding it hard to pay the bills. Here's some information about where you can go for advice and financial support as well as suggestions for how to cope on a smaller budget.

The pandemic has obviously had an impact on employment. Industries such as accommodation and food services, retail trade, manufacturing and construction have been the worst hit. In Tāmaki Makaurau the largest impact has been seen in accommodation, food services and retail. This means workers in these industries have had their employment disrupted. Read more about employment support during COVID-19. 

Loss of employment has serious impact on finances so many whānau and households will be struggling to put kai on the table, pay rents and mortgages and keep their whare warm and dry. Losing work and income also affects your hauora (health) and puts pressure on how you keep your life and health in balance.

Video: COVID-19: Easing money worries 

(Health Navigator NZ and Te Whatu Ora | Health New Zealand, Waitematā, 2022)
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If you're struggling 

If you find you're struggling, read more about:

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Here are some resources and places to go to get information and financial support to help you through this difficult time.

COVID-19 welfare 

The COVID-19 welfare phone line 0800 512 337 is available Monday–Friday 8am–5pm and weekends and public holidays 8am–1pm. It's a free service that can help you with:

  • food and essential items
  • mobile data so you can keep in contact with friends and whānau
  • support for personal care or daily tasks
  • talking to your employer if you are worried about your leave or pay
  • mental health support
  • support with family or sexual violence.

This tool allows you to find out what financial support you could access if your income has been affected by COVID-19.

Government and tax assistance

The Inland Revenue Department (IRD) offers several ways to assist with COVID-19 hardship.

There is a cost of living payment of $350 divided into 3 payments, the first of which was paid on 1 August 2022. For those who meet the eligibility criteria this is automatically applied, but the IRD needs a correct bank account number to make sure the payment can be processed. Read more about the payment and who is eligible.

There's some flexibility if you can’t pay your tax on time because you've been affected by COVID-19. This applies to penalties and interest for tax payments that were due on or after 14 February 2020 up until 8 April 2024 (including provisional tax). Read more about asking for financial relief. 

The Small Business Cashflow Scheme (SBCS) was introduced to support small to medium businesses and organisations struggling with a loss of actual revenue due to COVID-19. Applications are open until 31 December 2023.

Work and Income NZ (WINZ) for whānau

The WINZ site has links to find out about the supports available for individuals, whānau, employers and self-employed people affected by COVID-19. 

All the information on WINZ sites is provided in a variety of languages. 

If you’ve lost your job or can’t work, you may be able to get a benefit, some other financial help or support to find work. It may be possible to get help even if you’re working and on a low income. You may be able to get help with the cost of food, accommodation, power, gas, heating or water and medical and dental care. Read more about help for you and your whānau.

There are options for help with urgent or unexpected costs (even if you’re working). These include:

  • food
  • accommodation costs (rent, mortgage, board)
  • power, gas and water bills or heating
  • dental treatment
  • glasses
  • whiteware (eg, fridge, freezer, washing machine)
  • medical costs
  • home repairs and maintenance
  • car repairs
  • bereavement
  • fire or theft.

WINZ for employers

There is a COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme available to employers, including self-employed people, to help pay employees who must self-isolate because of COVID-19 and can't work at home during that period.

The COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment is available for businesses, including self-employed people, to help pay employees who can’t work from home while they (or their dependents) wait for a COVID-19 PCR test result (this doesn’t apply to RAT tests).

Auckland City Council

The Auckland City Council is offering postponement of rates for residential property owners who meet their criteria. Read more about the rates postponement scheme and how to apply. 

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Other resources to help make ends meet

Hardship and budgeting

Health and wellbeing

  • Free RAT tests are available to the members of every whare (household).
  • Dignity provides free-period products for people without access to these products.
  • The Ministry of Health's prescription subsidy scheme reduces costs for people and whānau who have a lot of prescribed medicines. 
  • The Ministry of Health's high-use health card provides subsidised healthcare appointments for people who need to visit their GP often for ongoing health condition/s.
  • Check to see if you meet the criteria for a community services card to help with healthcare costs. 

Food/kai

  • Food bank and food parcel options around New Zealand.
  • The New Zealand food bank directory has links to food banks and opportunities for financial assistance and community resources throughout the motu. 
  • The Zero Hunger Collective site provides links to a variety of community food organisations across New Zealand including Māra kai (community gardens), Pātaka Kai (community store houses), regular community meals as well as more traditional food banks offering food parcels, budgeting support and more.

Read more about eating well for less and where to get help if you are having problems putting kai on the table.

Transport

  • The Ministry of Transport offers a mobility service providing subsidised licensed taxi services for people who can't use buses, trains or ferries because they have a physical, intellectual, psychological, sensory or neurological disability.
  • St John provides a koha-based health shuttle service that transports people to health-related visits and then brings them home again. Here is a list of regions where the service is offered, including 4 based in Tāmaki Makaurau.
  • SuperGold card holders can travel free on public transport at off-peak times. In most areas off-peak is usually 9am to 3pm and from 6.30pm to the end of service on weekdays, and any time on weekends and public holidays. In some areas you will also need a smart card from the regional council to access free off-peak travel. Read more about travelling free with a SuperGold card.  

Activities

  • If you're looking for things to do with whānau and friends in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), the Our Auckland site lists coming events – some free, some involving a cost.
  • This Money Hub site provides information about free things to do in Auckland.
  • Auckland for kids advertises free things to do if you have tamariki.

References

Māori employment – economic impact of COVID-19 Te Puni Kōkiri, Ministry of Māori Development, NZ, 2020

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.