BNZ and Good Shepherd NZ announced today they will be extending their Community Finance programme, allowing $5 million of no interest loans to be used by families financially impacted by COVID-19.
BNZ CEO Angie Mentis, says, “There are families out there struggling and we want to take some of the pressure off. If you need just a bit more help to get through, we’re here for you.
“We are extending the No Interest Loan Scheme to help vulnerable people and families financially impacted by COVID-19.
“Making $5 million of lending available to help pay rent or utility bills will give individuals and families some breathing room during this uncertain time and help them avoid the perils of resorting to using loan sharks and predatory lenders,” says Mentis.
Mentis decried predatory lenders who are seeking to profit from people’s desperation: “These unscrupulous lenders target our most vulnerable people and at-risk communities. We are determined to do what we can to disrupt them and help people get through the COVID-19 lockdown,” she says.
The No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) provides loans of up to $1500 and was previously only for essential goods and services such as furniture, whiteware and items needed for school and education.
From today it can now also be used as relief for people and families who have been financially impacted by COVID-19, providing a no-interest loan to pay outstanding bills like rent and utilities, or to refinance or consolidate existing high-cost debt.
With Community Finance, the focus is also on building longer term financial wellbeing.
Good Shepherd NZ Chief Executive, Fleur Howard, says, “While the extra funds will help relieve the most immediate needs of those who are facing an uncertain outlook, another really important part of Community Finance is the in-depth financial conversations people can have with our loan workers.
“Our loan workers can support people who are currently struggling to access all the assistance available to them as a result of COVID-19, including a range of hardship options, and help them develop a longer-term plan.
“Even if you don’t need a loan, our loan workers have lots of experience with supporting people when money is tight. People should come and talk to us before they resort to a high cost lender,” says Good Shepherd NZ Chief Executive, Fleur Howard.
“One person who has lost their job and didn’t have money to get home has already benefitted from the extended no interest loan offering.
“Our loan is helping them buy food and pay their rent until the jobseeker support from the government kicks in. This is a person who would have been a great target for a predatory lender,” says Howard.
BNZ, Good Shepherd NZ, and the community provider partners have been delivering Community Finance for more than five years, lending over $6.3 million to more than 2,300 families, saving more than $3.3 million worth of interest and fees going to high-cost lenders. $5 million of lending is being ringfenced to support this new initiative, and BNZ is also providing its own staff and resources to support Good Shepherd NZ to process the loans as quickly as possible.