Bracing for impact of economic fallout

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Uncertain times . . . Dunedin Budget Advisory Service manager Andrew Henderson working from home on Tuesday. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

As a State of Emergency was declared in New Zealand yesterday and the country moved into a lockdown overnight, a Dunedin budget adviser is bracing for the impact of the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dunedin Budget Advisory Service manager Andrew Henderson said the pandemic had created “a whole lot of fear and uncertainty” for his clients.

He was forecasting the service to get busier as a recession starts to bite.

“There is going to be a huge economic fallout . . . We operate at capacity at the best of times and I can see us getting overwhelmed that’s a big worry.”

A client who worked in the timber exporting industry in Dunedin had visited the service last week after having their work hours slashed.

“He’s expecting to get laid off.”

In a bid to combat the disease from last week, service staff were no longer meeting clients face-to-face and were working from home, talking to clients by phone, text message or email, he said.

The move limited the number of people who could access the service, as many clients did not own a phone or a computer, he said.

“I worry for those people.”

The news the Government was giving beneficiaries an immediate and permanent increase of $25 a week in the hand had received mixed feedback.

For some beneficiaries, the increase would result in a reduction of an accommodation supplement.

“So they are no better off.”

The winter energy payment, which beneficiaries and superannuitants receive, being doubled was a good move, he said.

A great way to lessen the burden on the health system was to give people money to pay for power to keep them warm, he said.

People need to prioritise paying for accommodation, food and power, he said.

“Paying for unsecured debts is the least of your worries at the moment.”

The Ministry of Social Development had told the service its funding for the next six months was secure.

The business’s money management service had been deemed essential by the Government, he said.