Government COVID-19 support payment extended, criteria relaxed

Government COVID-19 support payment extended, criteria relaxed

The Federal Government has expanded its JobKeeper support payment for businesses and relaxed eligibility criteria in the wake of a pandemic teetering on a second wave along Australia’s east coast. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced a $15.6 billion expansion to the support program today, pushing the total JobKeeper bill to $101 billion.

"Around $13 billion of that will make its way to Victoria with an extra 500,000 Victorian employees going on to JobKeeper through the September quarter," Mr Frydenberg said.

“... Obviously with the stage four restrictions, particularly in Victoria, through the months of July, August and September, it’s going to be very difficult.”

The stimulus payment, of $1500 before tax per fortnight to help businesses keep employees at work, will be easier for more businesses to sign up to with some of the qualifying criteria being relaxed, Mr Fyrdenberg said.

Business turnover will only have to be down year-on-year over the September quarter -- as opposed to two quarters -- for businesses to be eligible for JobKeeper in September.

And employees who started working from July will now be eligible, whereas previously only those working from March were covered.

The JobKeeper payment is still expected to drop down to $1200 a fortnight from September.

What about JobSeeker?

The Government’s JobSeeker payment of about $1100 a fortnight is still expected to taper down to about $800 in September, in the wake of a growing unemployment rate and support from banks, analysts and advocacy groups to hold it at its current rate.

JobSeeker represented a $14 billion injection into welfare payments over a six month period, almost doubling the previously available unemployment benefit from $560 to $1100 per fortnight.

Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe credited the payment with cushioning the blow to households out of pocket due to the pandemic, amid what he described as the country’s “biggest contraction since the 1930s”.

“The Australian Government's recent announcement that various income support measures will be extended is a welcome development and will support aggregate demand,” he said, in a statement this week after the cash rate was held at 0.25 per cent.

“It is likely that fiscal and monetary stimulus will be required for some time given the outlook for the economy and the labour market.”

'The stimulus has helped’

Surveys conducted by banks, analysts and lobby groups mostly agree that the stimulus payment has helped prevent the financial toll of COVID-19 from being worse. 

About 21 per cent of people had about $300 in savings, a survey of 1500 people by ME Bank found. This was notably less than the JobSeeker stimulus and they warned its eventual tapering could leave families facing a “saving’s cliff”.

“Unless the economy gains momentum, tapering government support too soon could have disastrous consequences on the financial comfort of households,” Jeff Oughton said, a consulting economist at ME Bank.

Research firm CoreLogic found the property market proved resilient in part due to the Government’s support, but warned the premature tapering of stimulus payments could skew the market’s medium term outlook to the downside.

“Record low interest rates, government support and loan repayment holidays for distressed borrowers have helped to insulate the housing market from a more significant downturn,” Tim Lawless said, head of research at CoreLogic.

“Urgent sales are likely to become more common as we approach (the tapering of stimulus payments), which will test the market’s resilience.”

Advocacy group Better Renting surveyed 967 people and found the government’s stimulus payment was critical in ensuring they could afford their rent -- especially in cases where discounts and deferrals were not granted.

“The expansion of JobSeeker was an overwhelming positive (during the pandemic),” the advocacy group said. “On the old JobSeeker rate, it would have been an immense challenge to keep paying rent.”

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This article was reviewed by Finance Writer Alison Cheung before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about home loans

When does Commonwealth Bank charge an early exit fee?

When you take out a fixed interest home loan with the Commonwealth Bank, you’re able to lock the interest for a particular period. If the rates change during this period, your repayments remain unchanged. If you break the loan during the fixed interest period, you’ll have to pay the Commonwealth Bank home loan early exit fee and an administrative fee.

The Early Repayment Adjustment (ERA) and Administrative fees are applicable in the following instances:

  • If you switch your loan from fixed interest to variable rate
  • When you apply for a top-up home loan
  • If you repay over and above the annual threshold limit, which is $10,000 per year during the fixed interest period
  • When you prepay the entire outstanding loan balance before the end of the fixed interest duration.

The fee calculation depends on the interest rates, the amount you’ve repaid and the loan size. You can contact the lender to understand more about what you may have to pay. 

When do mortgage payments start after settlement?

Generally speaking, your first mortgage payment falls due one month after the settlement date. However, this may vary based on your mortgage terms. You can check the exact date by contacting your lender.

Usually your settlement agent will meet the seller’s representatives to exchange documents at an agreed place and time. The balance purchase price is paid to the seller. The lender will register a mortgage against your title and give you the funds to purchase the new home.

Once the settlement process is complete, the lender allows you to draw down the loan. The loan amount is debited from your loan account. As soon as the settlement paperwork is sorted, you can collect the keys to your new home and work your way through the moving-in checklist.

What are the features of home loans for expats from Westpac?

If you’re an Australian citizen living and working abroad, you can borrow to buy a property in Australia. With a Westpac non-resident home loan, you can borrow up to 80 per cent of the property value to purchase a property whilst living overseas. The minimum loan amount for these loans is $25,000, with a maximum loan term of 30 years.

The interest rates and other fees for Westpac non-resident home loans are the same as regular home loans offered to borrowers living in Australia. You’ll have to submit proof of income, six-month bank statements, an employment letter, and your last two payslips. You may also be required to submit a copy of your passport and visa that shows you’re allowed to live and work abroad.

Why does Westpac charge an early termination fee for home loans?

The Westpac home loan early termination fee or break cost is applicable if you have a fixed rate home loan and repay part of or the whole outstanding amount before the fixed period ends. If you’re switching between products before the fixed period ends, you’ll pay a switching break cost and an administrative fee. 

The Westpac home loan early termination fee may not apply if you repay an amount below the prepayment threshold. The prepayment threshold is the amount Westpac allows you to repay during the fixed period outside your regular repayments.

Westpac charges this fee because when you take out a home loan, the bank borrows the funds with wholesale rates available to banks and lenders. Westpac will then work out your interest rate based on you making regular repayments for a fixed period. If you repay before this period ends, the lender may incur a loss if there is any change in the wholesale rate of interest.

Does the family tax benefit count as income?

The family tax benefits are one of several government support payments that are not considered taxable income. Other such payments include child care subsidies, economic support payments, rent assistance, and carer allowances. If you file a tax return, you typically don’t need to mention such income on the return. However, some home loan lenders may accept family tax benefits as an income source when reviewing your home loan application. You’ll still need to meet other lending requirements, such as having a sufficiently high credit score and enough savings for a deposit before the loan will be approved.

Aussies receiving family tax benefits usually have an adjusted taxable income of no more than $55,626 a year. Alternatively, one spouse can be receiving income support payments from the government to be eligible. Most importantly, they need to have children dependent on them for care at least 35 per cent of the time. Children between the ages of 16 and 19 should be either full-time secondary students or have a somewhat comparable study load unless the government exempts them from these study requirements. 

What is the difference between a fixed rate and variable rate?

A variable rate can fluctuate over the life of a loan as determined by your lender. While the rate is broadly reflective of market conditions, including the Reserve Bank’s cash rate, it is by no means the sole determining factor in your bank’s decision-making process.

A fixed rate is one which is set for a period of time, regardless of market fluctuations. Fixed rates can be as short as one year or as long as 15 years however after this time it will revert to a variable rate, unless you negotiate with your bank to enter into another fixed term agreement

Variable rates is that they are typically more flexible than their fixed rate counterparts which means that a lot of these products will let you make extra repayments and offer features such as offset accounts however fixed rates do offer customers a level of security by knowing exactly how much they need to set aside each month.

Can I get a Commonwealth Bank home loan during maternity leave?

The Commonwealth Bank considers several factors like your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities to determine whether you’re suitable for a loan. Being on maternity leave doesn’t mean you won’t get approved for a loan, provided you meet the lender’s other criteria. For example, you may have other savings or spousal income to support your application. 

Having said that, it can be slightly more difficult to get a loan while you’re on maternity leave if you’re not being paid for your time off (which is often the case, depending on how long it’s for). 

If you are looking to apply for a Commonwealth Bank home loan during maternity leave, here are some things that may help your application:

  • Get a letter from your employer including details like your date of resuming work, salary when you return to work, and other employment terms
  • Show the bank you have savings. Putting up a 20 per cent deposit may help and you could also avoid Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI)
  • Calculate your income and expenses to apply for only what you can afford to pay.
  • If you have a partner or guarantor to help with your loan, provide their financial details on your application. 

Some people like to tell the lender they are on maternity leave before applying to see whether they qualify before going through the full process. 

What happens to my home loan when interest rates rise?

If you are on a variable rate home loan, every so often your rate will be subject to increases and decreases. Rate changes are determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, however often when the RBA changes the cash rate, a number of banks will follow suit, at least to some extent. You can use RateCity cash rate to check how the latest interest rate change affected your mortgage interest rate.

When your rate rises, you will be required to pay your bank more each month in mortgage repayments. Similarly, if your interest rate is cut, then your monthly repayments will decrease. Your lender will notify you of what your new repayments will be, although you can do the calculations yourself, and compare other home loan rates using our mortgage calculator.

There is no way of conclusively predicting when interest rates will go up or down on home loans so if you prefer a more stable approach consider opting for a fixed rate loan.

How much deposit do I need for a home loan from NAB?

The right deposit size to get a home loan with an Australian lender will depend on the lender’s eligibility criteria and the value of your property.

Generally, lenders look favourably on applicants who save up a 20 per cent deposit for their property This also means applicants do not have to pay Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI). However, you may still be able to obtain a mortgage with a 10 - 15 per cent deposit.  

Keep in mind that NAB is one of the participating lenders for the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, which allows eligible borrowers to buy a property with as low as a 5 per cent deposit without paying the LMI. The Federal Government guarantees up to 15 per cent of the deposit to help first-timers to become homeowners.

What is a honeymoon rate and honeymoon period?

Also known as the ‘introductory rate’ or ‘bait rate’, a honeymoon rate is a special low interest rate applied to loans for an initial period to attract more borrowers. The honeymoon period when this lower rate applies usually varies from six months to one year. The rate can be fixed, capped or variable for the first 12 months of the loan. At the end of the term, the loan reverts to the standard variable rate.

Cash or mortgage – which is more suitable to buy an investment property?

Deciding whether to buy an investment property with cash or a mortgage is a matter or personal choice and will often depend on your financial situation. Using cash may seem logical if you have the money in reserve and it can allow you to later use the equity in your home. However, there may be other factors to think about, such as whether there are other debts to pay down and whether it will tie up all of your spare cash. Again, it’s a personal choice and may be worth seeking personal advice.

A mortgage is a popular option for people who don’t have enough cash in the bank to pay for an investment property. Sometimes when you take out a mortgage you can offset your loan interest against the rental income you may earn. The rental income can also help to pay down the loan.

How do I get a Suncorp home loan pre-approval?

Getting home loan pre-approval helps you work out a budget to help you search for a suitable property and make an offer with confidence. Once you put in an application, you should get your pre-approval outcome within two business days. To help get a fast turnaround time of your pre-approval application, ensure all the information and documentation that Suncorp requires. This includes proof of identification, recent payslips, bank account and credit card statements.

You can submit the home loan pre-approval application online. You’ll be asked for information about your income, expenses, assets, and debts. It should take you about 10 minutes to fill out the application, and you can do it free of charge. A Suncorp lending specialist will review your application and contact you within 24 hours or the next working day. Suncorp will not run a credit check until you have heard from this lending specialist.

Once you get Suncorp home loan pre-approval, it’s valid for 90 days. If you don’t find a property you wish to buy in this time you may be able to apply for an extension, speak to your Suncorp lending specialist about this.

Why do I need to enter my current mortgage information?

We use your current mortgage details to calculate the potential savings if you were to change lenders, and also to help us point you to loans that may meet your needs.

For example – if you live in the house you own, we’ll make sure we show you the owner-occupier rates, which are typically cheaper than investor rates. Or if you have less than 20% equity in your property, then we won’t show you the deals that require a greater amount of equity.

What is breach of contract?

A failure to follow all or part of a contract or breaking the conditions of a contract without any legal excuse. A breach of contract can be material, minor, actual or anticipatory, depending on the severity of the breaches and their material impact.