A Ballarat pensioner who says she has $1.90 left in her bank account until pension payday on Tuesday is calling for more pension assistance.
Pensioners, welfare organisations and opposition leaders have called for an end to the aged pension freeze this month.
Ballarat pensioner Sandra Roberts said even a small increase of a few dollars a fortnight would make a difference to older people living week-to-week on 'tough' budgets.
She said she had just $1.90 left in her bank account on Monday after mortgage payments and bills came out.
"It is terrible. If something happened today, say if the hot water broke down or I ran out of bottled gas for the house, I wouldn't be able to afford anything until tomorrow and that would come out of next fortnight's budget."
The aged pension is usually raised on March 20 and September 20 each year in line with Consumer Price Index and a cost of living measure for pension households.
It is a matter of do I get two metres of wood to keep me warm during the winter?... Or do I not get it and rug up and get my groceries this week?Sandra Roberts, aged pensioner
The aged pension has not increased through indexation for the first time in 23 years this September, because the government says the indices used to adjust the payments have declined.
This means in March it will be a year since the pension payment has changed.
Meanwhile many household costs have increased including heating due to restrictions enforcing more time at home throughout winter.
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Aged pensioners receive a maximum of $944.30 a fortnight or $1423.60 for couples.
Ms Roberts said she had worked her entire life in relatively high paying respected positions including at folded airline Ansett and managing a hotel, but a marriage breakdown left her financially vulnerable.
The 69-year-old said she purchased her Newtown home with the 'little bit of money she had left' and her superannuation and she made mortgage repayments through her pension.
She said she was living week to week.
"Christmas is a nightmare, family birthdays are a nightmare," she said.
"I have got a wood fire in this house and the cost of wood is just astronomical.
"It is a matter of do I get two metres of wood to keep me warm during the winter?... Or do I not get it and rug up and get my groceries this week?
"Normally I spend as much time out in the garden as possible so I don't have to heat the house when I am not in it."
Ms Roberts called on the government to increase the pension this month and consider further increasing the payment permanently.
"I worked for 50 years and I worked in high paying jobs which meant I paid a fair amount of tax out of that money," she said.
"To no fault of my own I am now struggling and I need help."
RELATED COVERAGE: Opinion: Pension freeze needs to end | Catherine King MP
Pensioners received two $750 Economic Support Payments as part of the government's economic response to COVID-19.
Child and Family Services (Cafs) chief executive Wendy Sturgess said the payments had helped people, but their problems did not disappear once the money was spent.
"People on aged pensions often have to make decisions between food, utilities and medication," she said.
"We're worried about people feeling forced to have payday loans and other credit lines which are really expensive for people in the longer run.
"The cost of borrowing money just to make ends meet can end up locking people into a high debt cycle."
Ms Sturgess said the government should consider raising the aged pension.
"It is a pretty tough call not to look after our elderly at this time," she said.
"We would love to see people better supported financially in their ageing years."
Salvation Army Ballarat team leader John Clonan said aged pensioners needed a boost not only financially but holistically, as many have been disconnected and feeling isolation during the pandemic.
Ms Sturgess encouraged pensioners struggling with their finances to call Cafs financial counselling service on 5337 3333.
"We hope to help people before they get into really dire straits," she said.