Returning interstate and overseas travellers are flagging financial distress from crippling debts incurred from undertaking paid hotel quarantine.
The National Debt Helpline (NDH) has revealed to the Sunday Canberra Times an influx of calls relating to financial hardship from hotel quarantine, with some choosing to take out high interest bearing personal and credit card loans to cover the costs.
Financial Counselling Australia, which oversees the helpline at a national level, claims the distress is being caused by poor messaging and some state and territories being unreasonable about repayment plans.
"Both face-to-face financial counsellors and the financial counsellors on the NDH phone service are hearing from people who are struggling with hotel quarantine debts," FCA chief executive Fiona Guthrie said.
"In our experience, people want to pay and often the problem is that the particular state government involved is just being unreasonable about a repayment plan.
"If people don't have the money they need to be given time to pay."
State and territory governments control each respective hotel quarantine program, however the calls has prompted the helpline to create a dedicated page.
The NDH said one of the most common scenarios is a person or family sapping their savings to book or rebook flights at inflated prices, then not having enough money to pay the government for hotel quarantine.
Ms Guthrie noted greater co-ordination at a national level would assist in ensuring people knew what assistance is available.
"A better co-ordinated response would set out how repayment arrangements and waivers would work and be applied, including the collection of data," she said.
"This is something that national cabinet could discuss at some point in the future."
According to Government Services, each state and territory has access to disaster relief payments for people needing to quarantine or self-isolate if they have contracted COVID-19 or are looking after someone who has the virus.
The National Recovery and Resilience Agency, which falls under the responsibility of Senator Bridget McKenzie, confirmed disaster payments are not automatically available to returned interstate or international travellers.
Consumer Action Law Centre chief executive Gerard Brody, is also of the view a national communications strategy would assist people not falling into debt traps.
"I think it would be very helpful if there was one source of information about people's rights when it comes to hotel quarantine debt when it becomes unaffordable," he said.
"It's not the fault of us individuals who have been put into quarantine to be forced to pay when they don't have the resources.
"It creates broader risks."
Greens senator Nick McKim argues Australians should not be priced out from returning home when stranded because of domestic or international border closures.
"At the end of the day people quarantining is a public good," Senator McKim said.
"We should be encouraging people that need to quarantine to quarantine and people should not be priced out."
Law professor at the University of Canberra, Kim Rubenstein said debts incurred from hotel quarantine may possibly be illegal if a court determined it a tax on a citizen's right of return.
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