Banks are set to offer disaster relief to their customers after devastating floods hit New South Wales.
All of the Big Four banks have offered a range of options to their members who are caught up in flooding that is being described as some of the worst seen in Australia for a generation.
Areas across New South Wales have been battered by record rainfall, with rivers bursting their banks in coastal areas and parts of Western Sydney.
“Once the cleanup begins, it’s important for people to know that they can talk to their bank to seek assistance” said Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh. “The message from banks is clear: don’t tough it out on your own, your bank is ready to help.”
In particular, those who have suffered during the floods will be able to receive loan repayment deferrals, fee waivers, debt consolidations and refinancing. Many of those affected by the floods are the same people who have suffered in recent years with other natural disasters such as droughts and bushfires, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the floods, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has activated its significant event response plan, which is designed to combat the number of complaints that arise when natural disasters strike.
AFCA acted after the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) declared the floods a Catastrophe, a crucial move in defining how the financial industry reacts to major natural disasters.
As a result of the ICA’s call, insurance claims related to the floods will now be prioritised and property owners within the affected areas will have more recourse to support from their banks and insurers.
It’s too early to understand the extent of the damage to property in affected areas and to estimate the insurance damage bill, however insurers have received over 5,000 claims in the past few days,” said Andrew Hall, CEO of the ICA.
“The insurance industry has made this Catastrophe Declaration to activate services and support for affected homeowners and businesses and reassure them that their insurer is there to help. As many areas are currently inaccessible due to floodwater, insurers are expecting further claims in coming days as emergency services allow residents to return to their properties to examine the extent of their damage and losses.”