Two emotions rushed through Aleks' body when she logged into her MyGov account and saw a bill for $15,000 on the screen - worry, followed pretty quickly by anxiety.
At first when she saw the huge number she felt sick. Had she done something wrong? The next question that popped into her head, however, was worse.
How am I supposed to pay this money back?
Thousands of Australian families have been hit with bills from the Federal Government demanding they repay childcare subsidies with their deadline only weeks away.
Watch: The Family Tax Benefit and Child Care Subsidy explained. Post continues after video.
The childcare subsidy is paid based on an estimate of your income but if your actual income is more, the government asks to be repaid.
For example, if your combined income is $120,000, you receive a rebate of between 68-69 per cent. If you're in the $140,000 bracket, that percentage changes to between 56-60 percent. An income of $170,000 will see your rebate drop to 51-52 per cent.
The thing is, it's quite easy to underestimate, especially if your circumstances change during the year; if you get bonuses, if you get payments you can't 'estimate' beforehand, or you work as a freelancer and set your salary as you go.
Since the pandemic hit, there's also been an increase in redundancies as employers downsize to cope with lockdowns. That lump sum has ended up in families' yearly income, bumping them up as having higher earnings.
Centrelink has sent letters across the country detailing debts dating back to the 2017-2018 tax year. Most bills are due next month.
As Aleks told Mamamia's news podcast The Quicky, "the number is too big for me to address at the moment with everything else that's going on."
Not only is the pandemic causing strife, the Aussie mother recently separated from her husband which she says "adds another layer of complexity."
"[I am] absolutely not [in a position to pay that back]. No way. The bill that we got was for the financial year that my husband and I separated - so that adds another layer of complexity trying to manage single parent income, cost of moving. I am carrying excess debt from separating, and to be honest it's the last in a list if priorities to pay back in terms of debt. So I don't see a way of paying that back in the next 3-5 years."