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UPDATED: Resources for bartenders during the pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic gained momentum in Australia, it became clear that the near future would be difficult for our community of incredible bartenders.

Working in any area of the liquor industry with the ever changing circumstances caused by the pandemic make the future near possible to predict. Bars and Clubs, together with TheShout, National Liquor News, and Australian Hotelier have pulled together everything we can find to help bartenders during this time, whether you’re full time, part time or casual. 

We’ll be updating this story as we find out more and the situation changes. If you have any of your own tips to add, you can reach us at any time by emailing editorial@theshout.com.au

Last updated: 31 March.

Centrelink

On-premise venues have been forced to close by order of the Federal Government, whereas other types of businesses are changing hours and sometimes closing of their own accord. Exactly what this means for your immediate income will vary depending on your situation and workplace, but regardless, it’s a good idea to think about Centrelink.

If you’re not already getting payments from Centrelink, they’ve set up a help page directory with information about how to check if you’re eligible and what payment may apply to you. 

In recent days, the Government has announced that they have expanded the eligibility criteria, removed waiting periods and will also increase the amount of some payments next month. Plus, there is also the one-off stimulus payments of $750, that are due to start being paid from 31 March.

The first step is to create MyGov and Centrelink online accounts, if you don’t already have them, which you can find steps on how to do here. 

The most important thing to have first is your MyGov account, so you can at least register your intent to claim. If the Centrelink website is too busy for you to create an account and get a Customer Reference Number (CRN), lodging an intent to claim via MyGov will back date your application so you won’t miss out on anything caused by admin waits. Simply log into MyGov to find a big banner with instructions on how to do this.

After lodging this intent, you can request a call back from Centrelink to go through the rest of your application. You can also try online if the system isn’t overloaded, or join the busy phone queues to speak to a representative (see all contact options here). Centrelink have requested people try not to come to a centre in person if not absolutely necessary, as applications can proceed remotely.

Find out what you are eligible for using the Payment and Service Finder here at any time. Follow the prompts through the quiz to find out what is recommended for you and what you will need for your application. The category you will most likely fall into is the Job Seeker payment, because as of 20 March, Newstart no longer exists.

Job Keeper Scheme

The Government has now announced a Job Keeper scheme, to help keep Australian workers in a job they may have already lost, or be in danger of losing soon.

We’ve got a full break down of what this might mean to you here, but in short, it will mean a $1500 per fortnight payment to eligible employers to pay eligible staff. This will be handled by the ATO, with payments set to start from May, backdated to now.

It’s said that this will impact around six million Australian workers, keeping them on the books and out of unemployment figures, whether they are actively contributing to labour or not (staff can receive payment whether their venue is operating takeaway or just shut down altogether).

Never has any Australian government ever introduced a wage subsidy like this before, and so it will have complexities. Businesses are encouraged to consider this scheme with their staff – to understand your side of the matter, see this employee fact sheet.

For the time being, it’s been advised that if you have a Centrelink application pending, don’t withdraw it until you find out from your employer if and how the Job Keeper payment will apply to you.

Finding other work

Although no one can predict what will happen next, it’s been tipped that many companies that are considered ‘essential services’ will remain operational throughout the pandemic. And while these jobs are limited, there have been recent calls for more staff in some fields.

Some areas that are reported to be hiring include supermarkets, suppliers that need pickers and packers, and also logistics and delivery companies.

If you’d like a change of scenery, there is the option of going regional or rural for a while, as farms are in need of seasonal labour. With so many of their usual temporary staff being international, there is increased need for farmhands, fruit and veg pickers, and produce packers.

There have also been calls made by organisations including Centrelink, Service NSWWoolworths and Coles for thousands more staff to cope with increased demand. Some have suggested utilising any other skills that you may have to transition into other temporary work, for example, bartender knowledge would be useful in liquor retail.

Advice from some bartenders has been to utilise any other skills that you may have to work in a different area.

ALIA 2019 Bartender of the Year Millie Tang has been able to keep working as a creative, and said: “Luckily I have a great network and creative skills to utilise. I’ve been working hard redoing my budget to allow for minimal outgoings and securing enough creative work to keep the wolves from the door.”

There’s also the option to do a few small online things to make a little more cash. You can be paid to do online surveys, test apps, try software, or do odd virtual jobs. If you’re also on Centrelink, make sure you understand how earning additional income can impact your payments, by checking the chart here.

Try checking out job sites like Seek, Indeed and LinkedIn, as well as looking on social media for any call outs. Googling around for online odd jobs is also an idea, just be sure to check the site is credible and secure before giving them your details. 

Withdrawing super

The Government has announced that people financially impacted by COVID-19 will be able to withdraw up to $10,000 from their superannuation per financial year, starting from next month.

Before the announcement, withdrawals from super accounts were heavily taxed, however, withdrawals of up to $10,000 per financial year will be tax-free, meaning people could withdraw up to $20,000 this calendar year. The tax-free withdrawals will be possible for those who are unemployed, or who are eligible for the Coronavirus supplement from Centrelink.

Important note: multiple organisations have warned against withdrawing from your super and have said that it should be used as an absolute last resort. Touching your super now will have an affect on it’s balance both in the short term, and also an extremely detrimental impact in the long term – Australian Services Union estimates young people could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in potentially earned interest by withdrawing $10,000 now.

Applying for the withdrawal will be done from mid-April through the ATO, and individuals can now register their interest in the measure via their My Gov account. In the meantime, you can also read the Government’s fact sheet on this measure here, or FAQs from the ATO here.

Starting conversations about bills

Rent or mortgage and utilities are areas that will cause some of the most financial issues when you’re out of work. Although each situation with different landlords, real estates, providers and lenders are different, from all across the country there has been advice recommending you start a conversation if you need help.

Some lenders may offer ‘mortgage repayment holidays’ or paused credit card repayments. These types of measures would extend your timeline and potentially add further interest to your loan or card, but could keep you afloat for the time being. Contact your provider and see what they have available, many of them will have FAQs of options on their websites about COVID-19. 

In terms of rent (both residential and commercial) the Federal Government has just imposed a moratorium on evictions for the next six months. So you can feel assured you will have a roof over your head even if you fall on hard times. The Government’s latest advice for all renters and landlords is to sit down and discuss your options, perhaps including rent freezes, temporary reductions, or deferrals.

Tenants.org.au have some really useful insights in a FAQ on their website here. They write that you can attempt to negotiate rent for a short period and even have a template to help start the conversation. It would be hard for landlords to re-lease your place without losing significant amounts of money right now, so they should at least want to hear you out.

With utility bills, try contacting your supplier and asking for a payment plan, or some way they can help if you’re in financial trouble. Again, losing a customer means less profit for them, so they should have some options available. You can check your provider’s website, or call and ask to speak to a hardship specialist. 

Rent and bills are one of the biggest causes for concern amongst bartenders now, so try reaching out to others in the same boat for tips as well. Sydney based bartender Sofia Warwar said swapping financial success stories has been really helpful for her and her colleagues.

“We’ve got a group chat and we’ve been talking on there, giving each other advice about what different options there are. It’s been really supportive,” Warwar said.

Turn to your community

Australia’s hospitality community is incredible, and as someone who writes about it every day, I think it’s one of the best and most inspiring out there.

Even in the darkest times, your hospo mates are there for you, so don’t hesitate to reach out. Losing even some employment means losing a chunk of your usual social interactions and with distancing guidelines, it’s hard not to feel isolated.

Call or message people if you need someone to lean on. On social media, follow pages and join groups that foster a virtual hospo community, like your local bartender exchange, to keep connected and know that you’re not alone.

People are still pulling together in the physical world too to help the community. Despite the shutdown, some venues that remain open for takeaway are offering meals and care packages to their fellow hospitality workers who are down on their luck.

Examples can be found across the country and can usually be found on social media. Again, join your local hospitality workers group to see what is happening around you.

In Adelaide, Abby Roennfeldt from Hades Hula House said she is offering ‘Good Will 4 Good Vibes’ packs for her hospitality family.

“Hospitality is my lifeblood. Bartenders, servers, hosts, kitchen staff… They’re ohana, family. We live this way disconnected, but together,” Roennfeldt told Bars and Clubs.

“I’ve watched bars and restaurants close around the globe, leaving thousands without work, without an identity and now, potentially further disconnected. The packs are a gesture of my hospitality, a privilege I am able to extend to those in their time of need.”

Look after your mental health

It’s been said so many times before, but remember to be using good hygiene, wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, and practice social distancing, to limit the spread of infection. 

Your mental health is also important. When you’re looking out for your physical health, make sure to also look out for your mind. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it – you don’t have to do this alone.

Co-owner of Burrow Bar in Sydney, Chau Tran, told Bars and Clubs about some of her mental health resources.

“There are free apps I’ve directed the team to for managing stress and anxiety – Calm and Headspace are free for Android and I find incredibly helpful. Going for a long walk I find helps, a bit of sun and making a nice meal has helped me manage my stress. Checking in on friends is also incredibly important,” Tran said.

“We need to be kind to ourselves and others – because every day is a new puzzle and it’s better figuring it out together that’s for sure.”

There are also a range of helplines you can call if you need help, we’ve listed some below that might be of use to you and your family.

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Mensline: 1300 789 978
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
  • beyondblue: 1300 224 636
  • Headspace: 1800 650 890

Other things you can do:

  • Get involved – As well as the online social communities, there are lots of movements happening right now that you can support. We recently reported on the Keep Our Venues Alive campaign, which is a good place to start.
  • Tell your story – The Hospo Voice union are collecting data to help lobby the Government to support the hospitality industry, through their site I Lost My Hospo Shift. You can also get in touch with us to tell your story – contact editorial@theshout.com.au
  • Keep practicing your craft – being stuck at home is the perfect opportunity to work on your skills, by experimenting with new techniques or recipes. You can also branch out into new areas of the business, and use online resources and courses to understand a different sector of the industry.

Quick pick me ups

The news is pretty bleak right now and it can seem like everything is very doom and gloom. So if you need something to pick you up a little, try the below.

  • Dogs Working From Home – an Instagram account full of furry friends workin’ hard or hardly workin’.
  • Wholesome Memes – a Facebook page with cheerful memes featuring baby animals and feel good content.
  • Nick Heath – the Twitter page of this UK based sports commentator is now full of videos of him commentating real life situations and is weirdly entertaining.

Got any more tips or resources? Want to share your story, pictures of your dog, or just want to chat? All this and more is welcome in my inbox. Get in touch at: ballen@intermedia.com.au

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