The Australian Government will offer additional support to “vulnerable Australians” whose return to Australia has been impacted by the restrictions arising from COVID-19.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is making a Hardship Program available, offering emergency assistance for those Aussies stuck abroad. Loans of up $2,000 for individuals and up to $5,000 for families are intended to cover temporary accommodation and living expenses until they can return.
The loans may also be available to help Australians purchase economy class flight tickets home, with support ranging between $750 (for those stuck in South East Asia or the Pacific) to $2,500 (for Africa).
An update on the Smartraveller website says the loans are “only available as a last resort” and that applicants will need to meet strict eligibility criteria, have made all reasonable efforts to seek financial assistance through other means (with evidence required), and must repay the loan within six months of returning to Australia.
“You’ll need to demonstrate that you’re planning to return to Australia as soon as flights become available,” Smartraveller says.
Additionally, applicants need to show that they are either:
- Overseas temporarily and want to return to Australia urgently for medical or other reasons
- In financial distress as a result of the COVID-19 travel disruptions
- Require financial aid to shelter until they can secure a seat or purchase a ticket to return to Australia
- In a location with restricted or no available commercial airlines are operating
Loan applicants must also confirm they are unable to receive financial support from other sources, including insurance companies, bank or credit card companies, travel agents or tour operators, family and friends, employers, local social security services or overseas pensions.
Those applying for the airline ticket loan will be ineligible to earn frequent flyer points, and similarly, frequent flyer points cannot be used in conjunction with the loan.
Successful loan applicants should expect a response from the government within 72 hours of applying, with payments made directly into an Australian bank account.
Senator Payne said the government, through its embassies and high commissions around the world, continue to work with airlines and other governments to help Australians return on commercial flights.
“While critical to the integrity of Australia’s quarantine system and the safety of the whole Australian community, the international passenger arrival caps have restricted the availability of flights home for Australians overseas.”
“We encourage those seeking to return to Australia to remain in regular contact with their airlines or travel agents to confirm their arrangements,” Senator Payne added.
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