Sending money home during the coronavirus pandemic can feel impossible, but there are ways to make it easier

Faheem’s* hours at work have been cut from about 70 a week to just 12 since the pandemic started.

With way less money coming in, the father has been forced to tell his extended family back in South Sudan yet again that he can’t send anywhere near as much cash home as he used to.

And that’s the best-case scenario. Some weeks he can’t send any at all.

Depending on what was needed, Faheem used to send between $100 to $500 a month.

But since the pandemic, he’s only able to send about $20 on occasion. Usually it’s to his mum, who’s living in a refugee camp.

Not being able to provide the support they need is agonising.

“I spoke to my mum yesterday [and she told me my family] need money for the hospital and I had to tell her we were in hardship because of this disease.”

Faheem worries his family could go without food if he isn’t able to help.(ABC News: Emma Machan)

It’s not only Faheem’s hours that have been slashed.

His wife’s hours have also been cut back.

“It’s like not making anything,” the father said.

If Faheem’s situation were to get even worse, he may not be able to send any money to his family at all.

He worries they would go without food.

“Sometimes they eat only maize,” he said.

There’s help out there. Here’s where to look

Faheem’s story is only one of many, thanks to the pandemic’s impact on Australia’s economy.

It illustrates the impact that job cuts and losses can have on entire families.

And migrants tend to be the most vulnerable to loss of employment and wages in any economic crisis.

Even though these remittance payments sent abroad are often quite small, they’re incredibly important.

The UN estimates three-quarters of them are used to cover essentials like food, medical expenses, school fees or housing for families abroad.

So what can be done to keep remittances flowing during the pandemic?

Consumer Action Law Centre financial counsellor Shungu Patsika said there was help out there for those in need.

For citizens and permanent residents, he recommended getting in touch with Centrelink to start out with.

For temporary visa holders, Mr Patsika suggested contacting the Red Cross first.

“They provide emergency relief for asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and others who don’t have access to other support,” he explained.

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