Welfare crunch: Residents calling for help after job losses, wage cuts

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Central Otago and Wanaka residents facing job losses and wage cuts are turning to budget advisers for help due to the economic fallout of Covid-19.

Central Otago Budgeting Services has spent recent weeks helping many people who have not called on the organisation before.
Others have turned to the service to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

Central Otago Budgeting Services office manager coordinator Pam Hughes said the change in demographics had been significant, but she did not yet know the exact number of people who had relied on the service as a direct result of Covid-19. What Mrs Hughes could confirm was that the need was there for people from all walks of life.

‘‘We are finding it’s people that are working that have had their hours reduced, or a couple and one of them has lost their job,’’ she said.
‘‘Financial dynamics for a lot of people have changed.’’

She said some people had been made redundant effective from when the wage subsidy finishes, which gives them a matter of just weeks to find another job or prepare to be out of work.

Some of the inquiries Mrs Hughes had received were from people asking what they could do to prepare.
She said it was a good step to take, as there were several things they could do.
‘‘Check to make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to, [such as] Working For Families.’’
A reduction in income would also change what people’s entitlements were, she said.
‘‘Before you might not have been entitled to accommodation support — you might be now.’’

People paying off debts, such as a hire purchase item, are advised to contact the company to see if they can negotiate a reduction to the regular payments.
Mrs Hughes advised people who were concerned to get a ‘‘financial warrant of fitness’’.
‘‘Make contact with us,’’ she said.
‘‘We might be able to pick up all the things you might be entitled to. You are better to do it now while you have an income coming in and be prepared for a little bit down the track.’’

There was also now more support for small businesses, she said.
‘‘The Government, through IRD, announced more support for small businesses — they will give them an interest free loan of $10,000 for 12 months and they [will] also give them an $1800 grant per full-time staff member.’’
‘‘That money helps them pay the rent and power and ongoing costs that they aren’t getting an income in for now.’’

Central Otago Budgeting Services, which secured a $65,000 grant from Central Lakes Trust last week, supports people throughout the wider district, including Raes Junction, Queenstown, Makarora, Wanaka, Cromwell, Ranfurly and Roxburgh.

Mrs Hughes expects demand for the service will get busier.
‘‘In some cases it’s going to be quite easy to solve, but in others it’s going to impact on other things as well, like social aspects, mental health and relationships.
‘‘Resolving financial stress can have significant impacts in other areas of people’s lives such as mental health and family wellbeing,’’ she said.