MORE people in Bendigo are seeking financial help as the long term consequences of the COVID-19 crisis hit, support services say.
Victoria's recent snap lockdowns may have prompted some demand but services said they were expecting demand to keep rising.
Bendigo Family and Financial Services general manager Jenny Elvey said more people had needed financial counselling since the lockdowns, with no sign demand would slow.
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Ms Elvey said since the most recent lockdown BFFS was seeing bigger issues, as small financial difficulties snowballed.
She said unlike the long lockdowns of 2020, moratoriums on rental increases and mortgage repayments were no longer in place to relieve financial stress.
Ms Elvey said BFFS was worried about the mental health of many of its clients, and many were also presenting with health issues because they could not access a bulk billing doctor, or afford their prescriptions.
She said government support payments such as JobSeeker were simply not enough for people to live on, while many seriously ill people were forced to wait to access the disability pension.
Ms Elvey said BFFS only expected demand to keep increasing, as clients were on such low incomes, while housing was unaffordable.
She warned Bendigo might see a spike in homelessness, because of the lack of affordable rentals.
"We're thinking the next 12 months are going to be really tough," Ms Elvey said.
Bendigo Salvation Army Major Andrew Walker said staff had noticed an increase in new clients on JobSeeker during the past few months, which suggested more people were out of work.
He said international students were also struggling, as lockdowns left many without work, but they were ineligible for government support.
Mr Walker said the Salvation Army had seen a slight increase in requests for assistance with rent, as well as in areas such as food assistance and bills.
He said it was "nigh on impossible" for people accessing JobSeeker to afford to live on it now the payment had reverted to a lower rate, $565.70 per fortnight for single Australians with no children.
Mr Walker said more people overall were accessing Salvation Army support after than before the pandemic, but there had been a slight dip in 2020 due to JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments.
Bendigo Foodshare chair Cathie Steele said it was hard to gauge demand for its services as the service worked through other agencies.
But Ms Steele said Foodshare was pushing more food through into the community, with extra state government funding.
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