Financial support

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FRONT LINE: Firefighters from an Ovens Valley CFA Strike Team work to contain a fire in Nug Nug, west of Mount Buffalo on Friday. PHOTO: Rhett Chalwell

THE Federal Government announced a suite of measures on Monday which they said would immediately support bushfire-impacted small businesses, including access to new grants, interest-free loans and financial counselling as part of a multi-million dollar support package.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the initial package “responds to the needs expressed by small businesses on the ground and at the small business roundtable last week.

”The roundtable forum in Canberra, held last Tuesday, January 14, was attended by representatives from the Bright and District Chamber of Commerce, and saw chambers of commerce from fire affected regions and industry groups come together with the Government to discuss the impacts of the bushfires on small business.

“This comprehensive package will make it easier for those who have suffered direct fire damage, or have been indirectly economically impacted following the bushfires, to get back on their feet,” Mr Morrison said.

He said the immediate priorities for small businesses include grant funding, concessional loans, tax relief, and a dedicated and single contact point to help them access the support that is available.

There will also be financial counselling services that are targeted to help small and family business owners deal with the emotional and financial challenges they face.Independent MP Helen Haines (MHR, Indi) welcomed the announcement, particularly the interest-free loans of up to $500,000 and tax concessions for bushfire-affected eligible businesses in the North East.

Ms Haines wrote to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison requesting this type of support and had discussions with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt about the fires’ impact.

“The small business package echoes what I have been hearing from dozens of small business owners in affected communities and it’s vital that it flows quickly,” Dr Haines said.

“We need to do all that we can to support business and people’s jobs during this initial recovery period and make sure that our priority is delivering help where it’s needed on the ground and in the wider region.

Secretary of the Bright and District Chamber of Commerce Bruce Hore said the chamber welcomed the announcement on Monday, but said “we are waiting on hearing how these initiatives will be delivered.

“The announcement came after the government announced on Sunday a $76 million package to help parts of the country recover from its unprecedented tourism decline, including new campaigns to be aired locally and overseas.