COMMENT:

The Herald's Cooking the Books personal finance podcast has gone daily in lockdown, to help you get the tips you need to weather the financial storm. Hosted by Frances Cook, with a new money expert featured on each episode.

The economic fallout from Covid-19 is sending many people to food banks and Work and Income for the very first time.

The lockdown is proving successful for protecting health, with only 29 new cases reported on Thursday, but the unavoidable economic fallout has the axe already falling on jobs around the country.

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While it's well and good to say we need to plan for the rainy day, the reality is many people don't have any savings, and now find themselves without any income either.

Listen to the podcast episode here

Wages were flat for a long time before this current crisis, and some were already struggling.

The last quarter of 2019 saw an increase in requests for both hardship grants and food parcels - hardship grants spiked to 570,000, an increase of two thirds compared to the same time in 2018.

Now the Salvation Army has released a report on the social impacts already being felt from Covid-19.

Early indications show requests for help to get food have spiked even further upwards, and there are worries about people who are in debt and soon won't be able to make payments.

Ronji Tanielu from the Salvation Army's social policy and parliamentary unit said on the latest Cooking the Books podcast, people who had never been through the welfare system before were now needing help.

"One of the things the Salvation Army is concerned about is that we might be seeing a new group entering into vulnerability, particularly through financial hardship.

"This group might never have experienced this kind of financial hardship before, maybe they have never had any welfare or benefit payments before, or been to a food bank.

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"So when you take this together with financial hardship, job losses, and housing stress, that's one of the big concerns this social impact dashboard brought out for us."

Tanielu said many would struggle with their pride, but the faster they reached out for help the easier it was to stop the situation turning into a downwards spiral.

He recommended getting in touch with a free Salvation Army budgeting adviser, on 0800 854 009.

There was also the free MoneyTalks service to get in touch with a free financial mentor, on 0800 345 123, or by text on 4029.

Those financial services could help people understand the options available through Work and Income, and move debt to lower cost providers.

"What we're trying to say to people is don't be too proud to ask for help. People still need to be fed, people still need to pay their bills. There's a lot of help out there," Tanielu said.

"I think it's really important to get on top of those issues, particularly financial issues, now.

"For example there are already challenges with people facing disconnection or energy hardship with power companies. What we're asking people to do is make sure you go back to your power provider and have a discussion with them early, rather than getting behind with these debts."

Tanielu said speaking to your workplace union was a good way to understand what wage subsidies and employer support you might be able to access.

Listen to the full interview on the Cooking the Books podcast. You can find new episodes on Herald Premium, or subscribe on iHeartRadio, Apple podcasts app, or Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. The next episode will cover the best investment options in a downturn.

If you have a question about this podcast, or question you'd like answered in the next one, come and talk to me about it. I'm on Facebook here, Instagram here and Twitter here.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website