Following a meeting with the Treasurer, the CEOs of Australia’s big four banks have agreed to prioritise businesses in need of funding to bridge the gap until the first JobKeeper payments are made in May.
To do so, special hotlines will be set up to help manage the applications, with JobKeeper-related queries moved to the front of the queue to accelerate the assessment process.
Australian Banking Association (ABA) CEO Anna Bligh confirmed more needed to be done to ensure businesses meet the deadlines for eligibility for the JobKeeper program, even with the “tireless” work the banks are putting in to process applications as quickly as possible.
“Throughout this crisis, banks have worked hard to ensure they keep businesses afloat and keep people in jobs, with more than $700 million already lent to businesses to help see them through the pandemic,” she said.
“From today, banks are bolstering their efforts to fast-track any outstanding applications from businesses seeking funding to help them pay staff until the JobKeeper supplement is paid in May."
Westpac promptly announced the launch of its customer helpline to ensure eligible businesses are “identified quickly and their applications for financial assistance are expedited”.
“We understand many of our customers need help immediately and that’s why we’ve put these measures in place,” said chief executive, business division, Guil Lima.
“Westpac is committed to helping our business customers as they navigate this period by offering practical, meaningful support where we can. We all have a role to play in this extraordinary and challenging time.”
NAB’s new hotline, 1800 JOB KEEPER, will also provide a faster way for business customers to access temporary financial assistance options.
“We’ve launched a dedicated hotline for customers needing support with temporary JobKeeper finance and we’ll also expedite any requests we’ve already received from customers so far,” said NAB CEO Ross McEwan.
“We’re working as quickly as we can, with more than 350 people retrained to support customer facing roles so far, so we can support as many customers as we can over this hurdle.”
Customers can contact 1800 JOB KEEPER, speak directly to their banker or lodge a request for this assistance via the JobKeeper page on NAB’s site.
The launch of the hotlines at the major banks complements the range of support already extended to small businesses affected by COVID-19, including six month deferrals on loans attached to the business, extending existing lines of credit and waiving fees and charges.