8 April, 2020

Bushfire recovery and COVID-19

Those effected by Bushfire in South Australia have been hit with a double whammy. Hit hard by the fires in Kangaroo Island and Woodside, the COVID019 crisis has wiped out any confidence of recovery for a lot of people and businesses in these communities.

In response, Governments are now announcing more support to help get Bushfire effected communities through the coronavirus pandemic and the Bushfire recovery agency has put together a combined list of assistance and options available covering these crises. It includes bushfire, drought, flood and COVID-19 support from the Australian Government and links to state government assistance.

From help for mental and domestic violence to property clean up and support for ongoing living costs including where COVID-19 assistance may provide more benefit. This information site quickly defines what is available for individuals, small business including not for profits and primary producers.

Click on the list most relevant to you:

- [Combined list of support for individuals](https://www.bushfirerecovery.gov.au/recovery-assistance/combined-individuals-and-families)

- [Combined list of support for small business and not-for-profits](https://www.bushfirerecovery.gov.au/recovery-assistance/combined-small-business)

- [Combined list of support for primary producers](https://www.bushfirerecovery.gov.au/recovery-assistance/combined-primary-producers)

Keep in mind that governments are announcing more support as things change, and check back occasionally with the [Bushfire Recovery Agency](https://www.bushfirerecovery.gov.au/recovery-assistance/combined-individuals-and-families) to see what’s new.

If you are struggling there are Financial Counsellors available on Kangaroo Island and in Lobethal. financial counsellors are free, independent and confidential. They are there to help you manage through the cost of living pressures. Check out the Affordable SA App, website or ring the Affordable SA Helpline 1800 025 539 to book an appointment with one of the financial counsellors based in these communities or find out what other assistance is available.

7 April, 2020

How much do we care?

The release of 1.1 Billion dollars by the PM was less about “how we are managing” coronavirus and more about “how much we care” for those that will be thrown into financial chaos and personal hardship.

It will help to provide protection for the frontline Doctors and Nurses who have shown their stamina and courage and who will be put under even more pressure in the weeks and months to come. So much depends on these people and the outpouring of genuine appreciation for their efforts continues to grow as we learn about the day to day struggles they face in managing patients and what could happen.

It will help people that will find it hard to cope with these times. We know that many people will suffer mental health issues as anxiety and fear will cross our paths at some point through this crisis. We know that financial hardship undeniably creates a spike in domestic violence. We know that people will need support for the basics such as food and money and many wont know where to turn to find the help they need.

The SA Government has for many years provided for a network of support agencies across the State that can help you with the basics such as food, financial help and support. We call this Network, [Emergency Relief](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/food/emergency-relief). It supports people in need with food, financial and material assistance. Fuel vouchers to be able to travel to work or out of harms way. No Interest Loans, access to cheap insurance, the basic essentials and free Financial Counselling to help you manage debt. Organisations such as [FoodBank](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/food/foodbank), Oz Harvest, Second Bite and even your local supermarket form an important supply chain for this Network.

This network is now set to ramp up to support even more South Australians, not just in Adelaide but across our regional areas with the SA Government releasing 1.6 million dollars to the charities, food relief organisations and online and phone support programs. Businesses too have jumped in to lend a hand with chefs, restaurants and major commercial kitchens cooking up meals to supply Foodbank and meals on wheels. These Emergency Relief providers have re-invented the way they work in order to follow the guidelines that are helping to keep us safe and to flatten the curve.

Check out the South Australian Emergency Relief providers in the Affordable SA App, website or speak to the [Affordable SA Helpline](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/affordable-sa-helpline) on 1800 025 539 to find the services that can help you and in your local area.

For the immediate future, Emergency Relief will continue almost entirely as a phone-based services. Working with the SA Government to deliver help and keep people safe by minimising exposure to the COVID19 virus.

It’s going to be a long haul and these charities and agencies no matter how big or how small will be pushed to their limits. Many have been forged during war or tough times. Many are driven by their volunteer’s enthusiasm and personal knowledge of hardship. All will need to draw on every once of their tradition and unity to successfully stand with those that will be in need and show just how much we really do care.


3 April, 2020

COVID-19 and the Early Release of Superannuation

In the last few weeks the Government has made some unprecedented economic decisions that have had a major impact on a lot of people's financial situations.

One of the decisions that the government has made is in regards to the criteria surrounding the early release of superannuation. Due to the unprecedented effects of COVID-19, the government is allowing individuals affected by the pandemic (who satisfy one or more of the requirements) to access up to $10,000 in 2019-2020 and a further $10,000 in 2020-2021 from their superannuation fund.

With everything going on in the world, it is extremely tempting to take up the government's offer without a second thought and access these funds. The concern at the moment is that there are situations unfolding whereby unlicensed financial advice about the early release of superannuation is being given to satisfy personal interest, such as real estate agents advising tenants in financial hardship to access money from their superannuation fund to pay their rent. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has expressed concern about this kind of conduct because it may constitute as unlicensed financial advice and may not be in the best interest of the individual. For more information, see the attached article from the ABC.

We can appreciate that this is an overwhelming and confusing time for a lot of people, therefore if you are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 please consider speaking to a trained financial counsellor first to discuss your options. To speak to a free financial counsellor call the Affordable SA Helpline on 1800 025 539 or search for Financial Counselling on the Affordable SA App.

31 March, 2020

Look After Yourself

Keeping yourself fit and healthy can be difficult in normal circumstances, so it’s going to be very tricky during the current Covid 19 restrictions. The best advice seems to be to keep it simple. Make sure you move more and eat lots of colourful fruit and veggies. Drink plenty of water and get quality sleep (about 8 hours is ideal). Dance and sing often!

Why is exercise important for your mental health?

We all know that exercise has many physical benefits, but it also stimulates chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood and the parts of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

If you exercise regularly, it can reduce your stress and symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety and help with recovery from mental health issues. Plus, exercise helps you sleep better.

Sleeping well improves our wellbeing and helps us to be more alert, energetic, and better able to concentrate and perform tasks during the day. Getting enough sleep each day is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing and to reduce your risk for ill-health.

This is because during sleep we undergo many important functions that improve physical recovery as well as support learning, improving memory and mood.

So, even though you are practicing physical distancing, you can still go for a walk, walk the dog, play with the kids in the backyard or a local park as long as you keep you distance from other people.

You can always exercise at home too. Put on your favourite music and dance around the room with your family, or just by yourself. You will be surprised how good you feel after. If you are looking for some inspiration, there are plenty of opportunity online to dance, dance, dance!

A fun beginners dance workout at home can be found on the PsycheTruth channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mR9td6t5mTc and a cute 80’s warm up by WE LOVE DANCE can be found here [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xewf0Ecyrfs](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xewf0Ecyrfs )

You could always just try to ‘Shake Your Tailfeather’ in Blues Brothers style – it’s surprising just how much cardio is involved in the actions of this short song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdbrIrFxas0

If you are feeling particularly fit and strong, you could try a 20 minute strong Zumba (be sure to give yourself plenty of room!) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bm4WZyH5p2I](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bm4WZyH5p2I )

You can always just google some more traditional exercise at home videos such as the series by Pamela Reif called no equipment which are easy to follow but quite challenging.

Another options is to go old-school with Aerobics Oz Style – just google this iconic breakfast television segment from the 80’s and early 90’s to get a good workout, along with some insights into the social culture of the time.

Risks of sitting too long

There will be a real risk to you and your family over the next few weeks of sitting too much, especially when watching television, phones or other screens. Research has found that this can be bad for your health and it has been linked to diseases such as diabetes and cancer. It also has been tied to an increased risk of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

Many people will also underestimate the time they spend sitting in a day, so consider using an activity tracker on your phone, or better still, keep a diary. It is a good time to record the emotions and events you are experiencing, given this is something that has never happened before in quite this way. We are truly in unprecedented times and it might be good for you children or grandchildren to be able to read what is was like for you in many years to come.

Plus, the added benefit of writing gets you away from a screen and helps you to think creatively, which has additional benefits for your wellbeing.

Keep Moving

Its likely you and your family are spending more time than usual in front of screens and hopefully you will get to enjoy some movies and fun times together with family, but the downside of this is that our bodies weren’t designed to sit all day, or our necks to be looking down continuously.

You need to take some action with some simple exercises into your day. There are many options for yoga on Youtube, from beginners to advanced.

There are also a number of exercise options to combat ‘text neck’ the name given to the impact on your body from too much phone use. The following link provides 6 exercises, but you can find more by searching on line for exercises to reverse the impact of mobile phone use. https://www.inquirer.com/health/exercises-to-undo-damage-of-smartphone-use-20190211.html

You’ve Got This!

Try to keep some routine for you and your family, so make exercise time consistent if you can. Start the day with free online yoga, or get some cardio into your lunch break, learn a new language with Duo Lingo or try making meditation a standard part of your day.

Remember to wash you hands with soap and water and practice social distancing as much as you can. Stay safe but focus on keeping healthy and busy at home – its up to you now!

[Affordable SA](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/) believes that your health and well-being is an important part of managing yourself through troubled times and financial hardship. Helping you to respond to the challenges that we all face today and the future. Check out the [Well-Being](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/well-being) and [Healthcare](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/health-care) section of the App and website to find more ways to look after yourself without breaking the budget.

If you're experiencing financial hardship ring the [Affordable SA Helpline](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/affordable-sa-helpline) on 1800 025 539 or make an appointment to speak to a [financial counsellor](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/financial-counselling-services). They are free, independent, confidential and most of all there to help you.

27 March, 2020

COVID-19 and Financial Hardship

Here on the Affordable SA helpline we are now receiving calls everyday from people who are feeling the financial repercussions of COVID-19.

The whole country...or more like the whole world is currently in an unprecedented state of uncertainty. It feels like we are just is just taking one day at time, not sure what's happening from one hour to the next.

With such a degree of uncertainty at the moment there are a lot of "what-ifs". What if I can't make may mortgage repayments? What if I can't make my car loan repayments? What if I miss the due date for my electricity bill? What happens if I can't pay my phone bill?

To address theses concerns banks, telecommunication companies and utility providers are taking daily steps to support their customers during this time of unpredictability. For example, banks are offering periods of no payments, telecommunication companies are offering extra data, utility companies are offering payment extensions.

If you have been financially impacted by COVID-19 it is important to contact your providers and creditors straight away by visiting their websites or giving them call to see what immediate assistance is available.

For more information about how to look after yourself and your money during this challenging time, see the attached link to the Moneysmart website.

If you are feeling overwhelmed about your current financial situation and you would like to talk to someone, call the Affordable SA Helpline on 1800 025 539 to speak to a free Financial Counselor or search for Financial Counselling on the Affordable SA App.

[by Sam](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/team/sam)

26 March, 2020

Energy disconnection guarantee (COVID-19)

Origin Energy and Energy Australia have offered help for anyone whose livelihood has been impacted by COVID-19. Both companies are offering extensions and supporting the most vulnerable through their hardship programs with tailored payment plans and protection from disconnection.

These provisions have, for many years, been offered to people in financial hardship and it seems that both companies recognise that people's lives have been turned upside down overnight and who will need to make do with their savings for some time. Any company responding to the call for help and "being Australian" gets a gold star in our books but deciding what bills to pay or what service gets a little of your money first may be the real decision for you to make.

If you find yourself falling into hardship then it may pay to ring the Affordable SA Helpline or talk to a Financial Counselor. Seeking help early can save years of long term debt. They are free, independent and on your side. Many times when it comes to utilities debt, the first question will be "have you spoken to your provider?"

If you're in hardship, not necessarily affected by COVID-19 Crisis, there are [concessions](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/utilities/energy-concessions) and help available through hardship programs with most energy providers. The South Australian Government also provides the [Emergency Electricity Payment Scheme](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/utilities/emergency-electricity-payment-scheme-eeps) (EEPS) payment if you’re at risk of your electricity being disconnected. EEPS is only accessible through financial counsellors who will assess your financial situation.

At present Financial Counsellors are only booking in phone appointments and observing the Government's social distancing measures. [See more information about the changes to Financial Counselling appointments on Affordable SA](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/covid-19-changes-to-financial-help-services)

(To make document presentation easier you may want to download a mobile scanner App if you do not have scanning capability at home. Apps such as Fast scanner, Genius and Tiny Scanner are available from Apple and Google play)

20 March, 2020

Financial Counselling for the Bushfire aftermath

While the fires were still burning on Kangaroo Island, two workers from the Affordable SA Helpline volunteered their time to provide immediate assistance to those affected by the bushfires. I sat down with Sarah and James to get a glimpse of what it was like to visit a community impacted by bushfires.

Early in the morning, Sarah and James caught the ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw and made the one-hour trip to the Recovery Centre in Parndana. On the road to Parndana, James recalled seeing the city of tents set up next to the airport to accommodate the CFS volunteers and the highly visible presence of the Army across the island, something most of us are not used to seeing in our suburbs. The Army were on the island to assist with distributing water, burying dead stock, shifting fallen trees and maintaining the safety of the locals.

Once they arrived in Parndana, Sarah and James were involved in providing immediate financial assistance to those impacted by the fires. As the fires were still burning on the island, a Watch and Act warning was still in place so many locals were still in ‘survival mode’ – just taking one day at a time.

Interestingly, they both recalled that most of the people who visited the centre for assistance did not come alone and were supported by friends, family members or neighbours. Having a good support network around you is a big advantage in getting through life’s uncertainties and we see the benefits with many who contact the Affordable SA Helpline or seek Financial Counselling.

As the bushfires destroyed or temporarily closed many businesses, numerous people were left without a source of income. Sarah recalled that first and foremost people needed cash because unfortunately even during a natural disaster, you still need to buy groceries, pay school fees, buy petrol, register your car, etc.

Amongst the chaos and uncertainty, stories of the locals helping each other started to emerge. There were households providing shelter to up to 15 people, one person was feeding 30 people a day and a man used his own tractor to cut firebreaks around his own town to stop the fires from spreading. Even though these people may have been facing their own adversities, they put their own needs aside to assist their community…because that’s what islanders do.

I asked Sarah and James if their time on Kangaroo Island had made them reflect on their own life in any way. James said that seeing the impact of the bushfires made him feel grateful for what he has and not to worry about the little things. Sarah commented that it reinforced the importance of being prepared and having a plan in place if a natural disaster was to occur.

After seeing the damage first hand, I asked Sarah and James what the everyday South Australian could do to support the communities that have been impacted by the bushfires. They both echoed the call to support the local businesses and communities. Although a bushfire can create devastation there is something uniquely beautiful about how the Australian bush can rejuvenate itself. With our support the island will once again flourish.

Although the tables and chairs at the Kangaroo Island recovery centre are slowly being packed away and several services are returning to the mainland, many islanders are still experiencing the ongoing financial repercussions caused by the bushfires. In response to this next phase of the recovery process, The Salvation Army now has experienced financial counsellors based in both the Kingscote Community Centre on Kangaroo Island and at the Lobethal Recovery Centre in the Adelaide Hills. These staff will be there for the long haul, providing free financial counselling for people affected by the Kangaroo Island and Cudlee Creek bushfires.

We understand that there is a long road ahead for many people, therefore if you are experiencing financial hardship because of the Bushfires and you would like to speak to a financial counsellor call the Affordable SA Helpline on 1800 025 539 or drop into the Lobethal or Kingscote office to have a chat.

Lobethal - https://www.affordablesa.com.au/contact-us/lobethal-financial-counselling-recovery-centre

Kingscote - https://www.affordablesa.com.au/contact-us/kangaroo-island-the-salvation-army-financial-counselling

For more information about Fire and Disaster Recovery Services in South Australia see the attached link to the Affordable SA Website.

By [Sam](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/team/sam)