No-interest loans scheme being adapted for crisis

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Help at hand . . . South Dunedin-based Otago Community Finance co-ordinators Mel Aicken (left) and Lloyd Maole are responding to the Covid-19 environment. PHOTO: STAR FILES

The Otago Community Finance team is responding to the Covid-19 crisis by adapting its no-interest loans scheme to provide quick financial relief.

Launched in October, the initiative is a partnership between Good Shepherd NZ and the Bank of New Zealand, with support from the government, and is being administered by Presbyterian Support Otago.

South Dunedin-based community finance co-ordinators Mel Aicken and Lloyd Maole are repurposing the scheme’s no-interest loans to provide loans of up to $1500 for urgent financial relief, such as bills and debts, car repairs, medical and dental expenses, education costs, furniture and appliances.

They are also offering greater support to review people’s budgets and help them access other Covid-19 financial assistance offered by the government, banks and utility providers.

Ms Aicken said the no-interest loans were a “safe option” for people experiencing financial hardship, and also came with support and advice.

“The idea is to give people breathing space while they get back on their feet,” Ms Aicken said.

“And it is not just about a loan, we can give free and impartial advice, to help people make a plan for where to go from here.”

Among the people who had lost work due to Covid-19 were students who had worked in part-time hospitality jobs and migrant workers who had “really fallen through the cracks”, she said.

“And we are anticipating that when the 12 weeks of Government wage subsidy are up, things will be tough for many people.”

Under Covid-19 Alert Level 2 restrictions, Ms Aicken and Mr Maole are able to discuss loan applications with people over the phone, which has helped to expand their reach.

Along with the Covid-19 response no-interest loans, the Otago Community Finance team is continuing to offer their usual “StepUp” low-interest loans of up to $5000.

“These loans can be for all sorts of things – we have had applications for an electric bike, mobility scooter, wisdom teeth, laptops and cars,” Ms Aicken said.

For information more information on loans and criteria, phone 0800 477-711 or email communityfinance@psotago.org.nz.