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Early release applications top $9bn

As more than $9 billion in super is requested for early release, Australia's largest superannuation fund has paid out over $1 billion, with funds for the industries hardest hit by COVID-19 not far behind.

Australia's largest fund, the $185 billion AustralianSuper, has already paid out over $1 billion in early release to more than 140,000 members. AustralianSuper said 93% of the applications are being processed within five business days.

It comes as ATO commissioner Chris Jordan today told the select committee that over one million people have applied for early release of super, amounting to $9 billion in early release payments.

The super funds for workers in the industries that have been decimated by COVID-19 including Rest, Hostplus, Qantas Super, Media Super and Sunsuper have also revealed their early release numbers.

Industry fund for tourism and hospitality Hostplus' early release numbers were also creeping towards $1 billion this week. The fund had paid over 140,000 members $970 million as at end of day Tuesday, May 5.

With airline workers stood down in droves, Sunsuper, as the default super fund for Virgin Australia, has paid out at least $784 million to 108,000 members as at last Friday.

"With 1.4 million members and a relatively young and diverse membership base employed right across the economy, we anticipated there would be many who would take advantage of the early access provisions," Sunsuper executive general manager, customer engagement Stevhan Davidson said.

Sunsuper chief investment officer Ian Patrick said the early release numbers were still within the fund's stress testing assumptions.

"Our prudent fund management means there is sufficient cash to meet all anticipated forward commitments," Patrick said.

Meanwhile, Qantas Super chief executive Michael Clancy said the $8.4 billion corporate fund has paid out $33.2 million to 3488 of its approximately 31,000 members.

"The global airline industry is at the forefront of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. As a result of the crisis' impact on travel, many Qantas Super members have been stood down from the jobs they love," Clancy said,

"The government's support of the aviation industry, and the support to the workers through JobKeeper, have been greatly appreciated."

Industry fund for the retail sector Rest, which has approximately $60 billion in member funds, has paid out 100,385 members about $693.4 million as part of the government's temporary early release of super scheme as of the morning of May 6.

Rest said there is still 15,184 applications worth over $100 million to be processed.

"About 3% of all applications, 4440, have been flagged for extra verification as part of the processes we have in place to keep members' money safe from fraud and money laundering," Rest chief executive Vicki Doyle.

"These applications will likely extend beyond the five day period and we know that this will be frustrating for these members."

Under the existing financial hardship provisions, Rest would typically receive about 100 applications per week. In the first week of the new early release scheme, it received around 65,000 applications.

Despite the administrative challenge, Rest said it is "comfortably placed" to meet payment requests to members even if they increase in the future.

The media industry has also felt the impact of COVID-19. With advertising revenue down, companies including News Corp have given employees pay cuts and others, like magazine publisher Bauer, have made dozens redundant.

The industry fund for the sector, Media Super, is smaller than many other funds with just $6.3 billion in funds under management. It has already paid out $30.9 million to more than 3,500 members.

Read our full COVID-19 news coverage and analysis here.

Read more: RestSunsuperQantas SuperAustralianSuperHostplusMedia SuperBauerChris JordanIan PatrickJobKeeperMichael ClancyNews CorpStevhan DavidsonSuper early releaseVicki DoyleVirgin Australia
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