No-interest loans for battlers

BUNDABERG'S battlers have been lining up to take advantage of a no-interest loan scheme being offered in the city.

As the tough times get even tougher, the Bundaberg and District Neighbourhood Centre is helping people buy essential items.

Centre interviewing officer Patti Webb said the loans would enable people with their backs to the wall financially to pay for household items, medical needs or educational needs.

But there are strict controls over what they buy, and no cash is provided to the people who qualify for the scheme.

Mrs Webb said low-income earners had to provide details of their financial affairs.

Applicants also had to have lived in the Bundaberg Regional Council area for at least six months and be unable to qualify for other affordable loans.

If they were approved for the loan they then had to visit suppliers of the items and get three quotes on the price.

"It's to teach them self-reliance and gives them some self-esteem," Mrs Webb said.

When the loan was approved the applicant was given a cheque for the amount to cover the cost of the item and a letter to the retailer.

Mrs Webb said applicants could borrow up to $1200, with a repayment period of 12 to 18 months. She said the loans were definitely not for emergency relief, rental bond funds or rent arrears.

They were also not for loan repayments or general household bills.

Mrs Webb said the loans were for one item only.

When a borrower made a repayment to the program the funds were then available as a loan for someone else in the community.

"We have had a good response as far as payments are concerned so far," Mrs Webb said.

The money is paid back through the Centrepay program.

She said the scheme had been running in Bundaberg for several months, but yesterday was its official launch.

Mrs Webb said the scheme was aimed to reduce reliance on high-interest pay day lending.

The microfinance scheme is an initiative of the Good Shepherd Youth and Family Service, with support by the National Australia Bank and the State Government.

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