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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions

Source: Child Poverty Action Group

High numbers of people are asking a microloan service to reduce their debt repayments because they can’t afford food.
“For many people we work with, this lockdown is dire,” says Ngā Tangata Microfinance general manager Natalie Vincent. “People who usually repay $20 or $30 a week have been asking for their repayments to go on hold or to be cut in half because they feel that will make a difference as to whether they can feed their families or not. That’s a devastating position for them to be in.”
Repayment reduction requests to Ngā Tangata, a non-profit zero-interest microloan service, have been far greater this current lockdown than they were at any time last year. “Facing unexpected lockdown bills like groceries, internet and power is gutting. On a fixed low income, you might use rent money to top-up food but that means you fall behind in bill payments and you just never catch up. So people try to stay on top of things by skimping on meals – food insecurity is caused by inadequate incomes.”
Vincent said that foodbanks could only ever be a stop-gap measure and that government response needs to include immediate emergency income relief for those on cut or fixed low incomes. “The Government offered some lockdown-related income relief last year, but very little this year so far in spite of high need,” says Vincent. “Being able to appropriately feed yourself and your family is a basic human right, and it is currently not guaranteed here in our land of plenty. People need income so they can make decisions that are right for themselves and their families – and that includes decisions about nutrition.
“The Government needs to ensure people have enough income now and over the coming months to deal with the high bills that have already been rolling in for weeks.”
Ngā Tangata Microfincance has granted repayment reductions to everybody who requested one.
Why do people need emergency income increases?
1.Lockdown bills are high for low-income families due to
-the halt of food-in-schools programmes,
-high grocery prices,
-increased data and phone use for school and social connection
2.Annual inflation and food prices were already at record highs prior to the current lockdown,
3.MSD new debt levels have been at record highs over the past year
What is the Government doing differently from the first lockdown?
-No lockdown-related emergency income support has been extended to benefit recipients this year.
oLast year the government immediately introduced a lockdown-related benefit increase of $25 per household. That hasn’t happened this lockdown
oLast year, the government doubled the Winter Energy Payment to over $60 per week per family (over $40 for single people). That hasn’t happened this lockdown
-Criteria for accessing special needs grant income are stricter now than during the initial lockdown last year.
About Ngā Tangata Microfinance
We’re a small, non-profit organisation focused on helping financially vulnerable New Zealanders get ahead with money. We provide ethical, interest-free loans that give Kiwis a ‘hand up’, not a ‘hand-out’.
Ngā Tāngata means ‘for the people’ in Māori, which perfectly sums up what we’re about. We’re here to help people on low incomes to avoid the trap of ‘loan sharks’ and high-interest loans, to learn financial skills that last a lifetime, and to be able to better look after their families.
Our goal is to break the cycle of financial stress, to empower New Zealanders to become more financially capable, and to help them become better off in the long term.
For their families, for their future, and for generations to come.

MIL OSI