PEOPLE feeling the financial bite from the coronavirus pandemic are urged to seek help early from the city's welfare agencies to prevent their struggles worsening.
Uniting Ballarat executive officer Annette Kelly-Egerton said agencies were already starting to see so many people who had previously supported the 3BA Winter Appeal now needing help from donations as winter sets in.
There has been a spike in more vulnerable families, students and asylum seekers asking for agency help.
Ballarat ranks in the top 20 per cent of Australian areas, by postcodes, for people hardest hit by the financial impacts of COVID-19, a new index released this week shows.
- How is your suburb affected? Take a look at the index here.
Food security has become a priority for Uniting Ballarat as it pivots to meet a sharp rise in people unable to source or afford fresh food sufficient for their needs.
Agencies are reporting a wave of the Ballarat's new needy, predominantly people who have lost their job or are working reduced hours, unable to access the federal government's Job Seeker or Job Keeper schemes, since lockdown set in.
One thing we really do try and encourage is people seek help early, especially in financial areas.Annette Kelly-Egerton, Uniting Ballarat
Bills are starting to pile up and the cost effects of schooling children at home is starting to be felt.
Uniting Ballarat has found those most affected include migrants on working visas, international students and people seeking asylum. There has also been an increase in demand from social isolated older people and people with disabilities and medical issues whose usual care had been disrupted.
AUSTRALIA'S SUBURBS HARDEST HIT BY POSTCODE
Top 20 per cent: 3350 (Ballarat central), 3356 (South - Delacombe, Sebastopol), 3357 (inclu: Durham Lead, Yendon, Miners Rest, Springbank, Napoleons, Lexton), 3364 (Smeaton, Newlyn, Kingston)
Top 30 per cent: 3355 (Wendouree, Mitchell Park), 3363 (Creswick)
Ms Kelly-Egerton wants those who might be feeling the financial bite of the virus to know it was okay to ask for help.
"One thing we really do try and encourage is people seek help early, especially in financial areas," Ms Kelly-Egerton said. "What we're seeing is people, for example, not paying rent because they don't have the income and we don't want people to lose their houses.
"Ballarat is doing it tough but we want to help."
The Courier reported in late April the number of people presenting in the city as homeless had doubled since COVID-19 restrictions started in March. Uniting Ballarat confirmed this was still the case to start June.
St Vincent de Paul's Alan West has told The Courier demand for help has been growing each year but the coronavirus created a whole new level in uncertainty. He said mental health and loneliness, particularly among the elderly, were key challenges for welfare agencies in Ballarat.
The COVID-19 Financial Impact data shows Victoria had been hit harder than other states in job and wage losses since mid-March.
Those living in trendier inner-city suburbs were affected most, with lots of hospitality and white-collar workers unable to gather in urban environments.
Taylor Fry's Alan Greenfield, principal at the data analytics firm that developed the index, said the size of Ballarat likely made it more susceptible to widespread financial impacts.
"As a regional hub, Ballarat is exposed to industries like manufacturing, accommodation and food services and retail trade which have all been impacted significantly by the pandemic, so it's no surprise to see the city in the top 20 per cent," Greenfield said.
"Many families in the Ballarat region are middle-income earners who are often paying off a mortgage and just making ends meet. For them it's a real challenge to suddenly lose a part of their income due to unemployment or underemployment."
Many families in the Ballarat region are middle-income earners who are often paying off a mortgage and just making ends meet. For them it's a real challenge to suddenly lose a part of their incomeAlan Greenfield, Taylor Fry principal
The index combines the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics industry and employment-related data with census details to measure the crisis by postcode.
In the City of Ballarat bounds, people living in Wendouree and Miners Rest (postcode 3355) did not fare as bad as the rest of the city. The index report indicates this is likely due to higher unemployment or low-income rates for which income would not have varied greatly with the Job Seeker or Job Keeper payments.
Anyone wanting to support the 3BA Winter Appeal is encouraged to make cash donations online via 3ba.com.au.
All food donations can be dropped at the Salvation Army, on the corner of Main Road and Eureka Street, or City of Ballarat's relief collection site at Morshead Park soccer facilities on Pleasant Street.
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