Many Australians are doing it tough right now, as businesses are forced to furlough workers or close their doors for good due to the outbreak of Covid-19. And with Aussies forced to spend more time at home, utility bills are no doubt set to sky rocket, as people rely on electronic devices such as the television, games console or iPad for entertainment, or spend far longer than usual whipping up treats in the kitchen.
Help is available though for those who need it, and state governments have announced various measures intended to support their residents through this difficult time period. For example, Queensland is offering all households a $200 credit to pay for energy and water bills, while WA has doubled its annual Energy Assistance Payment to $610 and frozen household expenses.
On top of government assistance, energy providers have also vowed to assist customers in various ways. Here’s what the major providers have said.
Customers in NSW, SA, QLD and VIC, who have been financially impacted by the outbreak of coronavirus, can access Alinta’s Hardship Program. For customers in WA, the Continuous Energy Program (a similar hardship program) is available.
This allows customers to arrange payment extensions or set up a payment plan online, while Alinta will also provide advice on relevant government assistance programs and ensure all rebates are applied to customers’ accounts. Customers receiving hardship assistance can also rest assured that they will not have their energy disconnected between now and July 31.
In addition to their regular hardship program, Alinta is also urging customers to get in touch using the online MyAccount portal, due to reduced call centre hours as a result of the pandemic. You can also contact the provider via email or Facebook.
Eligible customers can access Origin’s hardship program, which offers measures such as payment extensions and tailored payment plans. Energy disconnections for customers who haven’t paid their bills have also been suspended for now, while vulnerable customers are being prioritised.
Origin CEO Frank Calabria said: “Many Australian households and small businesses are facing considerable economic uncertainty and we understand energy bills can cause further stress at this time, particularly for the more vulnerable members of our community.
“We encourage any customers who are having trouble paying their bills to request a payment extension through our website or call us to discuss other types of support available.”
Earlier this month AGL launched their COVID-19 Customer Support Program, which allows those who have been financially impacted to extend their payment terms, while disconnections have also been suspended for customers on the program until 31 July 2020.
This program is in addition to AGL’s existing payment support options. Customers in NSW, QLD, SA or WA can access AGL’s Staying Connected program, while those in VIC can receive support through the Payment Support Victoria program.
EnergyAustralia will be providing financial support to customers via their existing EnergyAssist program, and urged anyone who is worried about not being able to meet their payments to get in touch.
On top of this, EnergyAustralia have also requested that customers reach out online, rather than via telephone, due to long wait times. They also assured customers that their power will not be disconnected during this period.
Tasmanian energy provider Aurora has teamed up with the local government, implementing a price increase cap for 12 months on energy bills. Small business customers will also receive a 100 per cent waiver on their next energy bill after April 1. Aurora also announced a $5 million COVID-19 Customer Support Program, which includes measures to assist customers such as debt freezing, fee and charge waiving and bill relief in addition to regular financial hardship assistance.
They have also suspended all meter readings in a bid to protect staff, meaning that quarterly readings will be estimated.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services advice.