Aussies demand rent and mortgage freeze
Hundreds of thousands of concerned Australians have called on the government to suspend household payments during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a Change.org petition addressed to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Melbourne man David Buchler urged the government to follow Italy's lead by suspending mortgage repayments, rent and utility bills to "soften the economic blow" facing households and small businesses.
The petition has already been signed by almost 430,000 people who fear the financial fallout of the COVID-19 crisis could devastate families.
"We are now in unprecedented times, and the economic impact of COVID-19 on Australia and the rest of the world will be massive, but there are measures we can take to mitigate the fallout," the petition states.
"We urge the Australian government to take action to protect the Australian people in the same manner that their Italian counterparts did on March 10th, they suspended mortgage repayments and utility bills to soften the economic blow to households and small businesses, residential and commercial.
"Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte said, 'Europe cannot think of confronting an extraordinary situation with ordinary measures.' The coronavirus is expanding rapidly and we will be likely facing numerous months of self-isolation with a large number of the country facing unemployment and uncertainty."
Mr Buchler said hundreds of small and medium businesses were unlikely to survive the outbreak and the strict isolation measures it sparked, which would be "catastrophic" for society.
He called on the government to introduce urgent, emergency laws for banks to freeze mortgages and interest, which would allow landlords to freeze rents - and keep families in their homes while their livelihoods are under threat.
"By acting together, we can save many lives and livelihoods. By removing this financial stress our communities can focus on social distancing, staying healthy and helping each other. This is the only way to #flattenthecurve," he said.
"The government needs to liaise with banks to freeze repayments for the duration of coronavirus. Landlords need to implement this for all tenants in Australia."
Many Australians shared their reasons for signing the petition, with one saying, "It's the right thing to do for Australia."
"These are hard times for everyone. Many people are out of work and are struggling to even put food on the table. The government should be responsible for basic needs during an emergency like this one," another wrote.
Another added: "Since the isolation rules have been implemented and my partner lost his job we have really been struggling to survive. I can't afford to cover rent, bills and food."
Meanwhile, Australia's major banks have started to introduce their own coronavirus policies.
Commonwealth Bank and ANZ customers struggling with the virus's impact will be able to defer their home loan repayments for six months with interest capitalised.
NAB clients can also defer repayments for up to six months if you're an owner-occupier, investor or on a principal and interest or interest only repayment schedule, while Westpac customers will have the option to defer for three months, with a possible three month extension, for those whose job or income has been affected.
Originally published as Aussies demand rent and mortgage freeze