High inflation, rising interest rates and winter are all putting pressure on Kiwis' wallets, but there might be more support available than you think.
A perfect storm of economic factors is driving the costs of essentials sky-high with grocery, petrol and mortgage prices all spiking.
The Government has taken several steps to help struggling Kiwis including slashing excise tax on fuel and introducing free public transport for three months. And in the 2022 Budget, the Government also introduced a one-off $350 payment for Kiwis earning less than $70,000 a year.
While the payment has been welcomed there are concerns from experts the recent Official Cash Rate rise has already wiped out the payment.
So here is all the help available if you're struggling to manage the increasing costs.
For Kiwis who are out of a job the Jobseekers benefit is available. The benefit ranges from $233 a week for a single person aged 18 to 19 years old and living at home to $440 a week for a solo parent. There is also support available for Kiwis who are unable to work due to illness and for other reasons.
More details about benefits can be found here.
Main benefits aren't the only support available either. Many people on benefits can also get help to cover urgent or unexpected costs through work and income via a Special Needs Grant or Advance Payment of Benefit. These can be used to cover essential and unexpected costs such as:
- Accommodation costs (rent, mortgage, board)
- Power, gas and water bills or heating
- COVID-19 Vaccinations
- Dental treatment
- Whiteware (eg, fridge, freezer, washing machine)
- Medical costs
- Home repairs and maintenance
- Car repairs
- Fire or theft
More details can be found here.
The winter energy payment is also available for Kiwis on most benefits.
The payment is paid out from May 1 to October 1 each year. A single person with no dependents can expect $20 a week while couples and people with children can get $31 a week.
Kiwis on a benefit can also get money to help cover school costs such as uniforms and fees. Certain criteria do apply and the money will have to be paid back. More details can be found here.
Kiwis in paid work are still available for several forms of assistance through Work and Income.
If you're struggling to meet your living costs or facing an unexpected bill, help may be available.
Some low-income Kiwis may be eligible for a Special Needs Grant or Recoverable Assistance Payment.
The payments can be used to meet essential living costs like those mentioned above but asset and income limits apply. Any money given through the Recoverable Assistance Payment must be paid back. More details can be found here.
Working Kiwis may also be eligible for help paying their rent, board or mortgage. To be eligible for the Accommodation Supplement you must be 16 years old or older, a permanent resident or citizen, normally live in Aotearoa and intend to stay and not be paying rent for a social housing property. Income and asset limits also apply.
Find out more here.
Kiwis earning under $70,000 a year are also eligible for the Government's one-off $350 payment announced in this year's Budget. Full details can be found here.
Working for Families
There is also extra support available for parents through Working for Families.
Parents with children under the age of 18 might be eligible for regular payments. The amount you can get depends on your income. More details can be found here.
You may also be able to withdraw a portion of your KiwiSaver early if you're experiencing financial hardship.
To withdraw funds you will need to provide evidence you are suffering significant financial hardship.
Significant financial hardship includes when you:
- cannot meet minimum living expenses
- cannot pay the mortgage on the home you live in, and your mortgage provider is seeking to enforce the mortgage
- need to modify your home to meet your special needs or those of a dependent family member
- need to pay for medical treatment for yourself or a dependent family member
- have a serious illness
- need to pay funeral costs of a dependent family member.
If you don't want to withdraw funds but can't keep contributing you can apply for a savings suspension.
You can apply for a savings suspension within the first 12 months if you’re experiencing, or likely to experience, financial hardship.
After your first 12 months of membership you can apply for a savings suspension regardless of your financial situation.
Another option for Kiwi homeowners who are struggling to pay their bills as interest rates rise is a mortgage holiday. Each bank has different rules but most will allow homeowners to take at least a three-month break. It's worth noting interest will still accrue during the holiday. Contact your bank for more details.
Older Kiwis are also eligible for several forms of help. People aged 65 and older may be eligible for the NZ Super.
For those who can get the NZ Super, Work and Income offers several other forms of help such as:
- housing costs eg. repairs, rent, rates, power bills.
- health costs eg. prescriptions, doctors visits.
- emergency or unforeseen costs.
- caring for children.
- caring for your spouse or partner at home.
More details can be found here.
If none of the above apply, don't fret. This isn't a complete list of every single benefit or payment available.
You can easily find out everything you're eligible for by using Work and Income's benefit calculator, which can be found here.
Several charities also offer assistance through food parcels. Details for your closest food bank can be found through Foodbank New Zealand.
If you're not eligible for anything but are struggling to manage the increase in costs there are several tips and tricks to help. Advice on slashing your winter energy bill can be found here.
* This is not a full list of every payment available through Work and Income. For full details of everything available click here.