The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in the number of vulnerable people seeking financial help through payday loans, as demand for crisis services across the Hunter rises.
The Salvation Army's Moneycare program - which provides free expert financial advice to those in need - has experienced a spike since the global health crisis began, Newcastle-based financial counsellor Kristen Hartnett says.
She is urging people who are in the midst of financial hardship not to be tempted by the lure of lenders offering quick cash with few checks, but instead to seek advice from a service like Moneycare.
Payday loan companies deliver cash into a person's account after an application is complete - which can often be filled out quickly online - for amounts going into the thousands.
Salvation Army has long been openly critical of the payday lending industry, previously going on record to say it exploits desperate and vulnerable people.
Like many charitable organisations, the Salvation Army has continued to deliver essential services throughout the pandemic.
"Demand continues to be constant for our service," Ms Hartnett told the Newcastle Herald.
"We see continued increase in the use of payday loans, which concerns us as we see the inevitable stress this places on people and [we] see instances where people are given way too many loans.
"And whilst we always encourage people to advocate for themselves, we see too often how complex our financial systems are to navigate."
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Moneycare has been running for more than a decade and provides counselling, coaching and no-interest loans for people who are doing it tough.
People can apply for loans of up to $1500 - repaid over 12 to 18 months - for household items and car-related expenses.
Qualified financial counsellors can help with confidential advice about overdue bills, credit card debt and other pressures.
According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, the national unemployment rate in April was 6.2 per cent - up one percentage point from March.
Ms Hartnett said housing affordability and access to health services were among the most common challenges facing people who were using Moneycare counselling in recent weeks.
She said free help was available over the phone.
The Newcastle Herald reported earlier this week that a range of welfare service providers had seen a spike in demand because of the financial pressures of coronavirus and its effect on businesses and the economy.
Samaritans CEO Brad Webb said about half the people his organisation's crisis centres had never previously used the service - many were experiencing financial hardship while waiting for Centrelink payments to arrive.
He said the increase in demand in Newcastle could be linked, at least partially, to the "usual bill cycles".
"People who had never encountered financial vulnerability are now struggling to pay the bills," Mr Webb said.
"People who had previously supported organisations like Samaritans are now seeking support for themselves."
Moneycare can be reached by calling 4088 5820.
More information about Salvation Army and Samaritans' initiatives are available online.