More help on its way

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VERY CLOSE CALL: Firefighters from the Ovens Valley CFA strike team worked morning and night across the weekend to contain a fire in Nug Nug that sparked from the Mount Buffalo blaze on Friday. All towns across the Alpine Shire have since been downgraded to Advice level but locals are urged to stay up to date this week. PHOTO: Rhett Chalwell.

THE Federal Government announced a suite of measures on Monday which they said would immediately support bushfire-impacted small businesses.

Eligible family owned and small businesses will have access to new grants, interest-free loans, financial counselling as part of the multi-million dollar support package.

Myrtleford Chamber of Commerce president Jim van Geet said while the announcement is welcomed, there are a few questions that still need to be answered.

“Headline grabbing announcements are fine but history tells us the devil is in the detail and we want the details,” Mr van Geet said.

“It looks good on paper but we don’t know what it means realistically for our businesses and our farmers.

“The devil is always in the detail and that’s where we are seeking some basic clarification.

“Our main concern at the forum last week was cash flow for small businesses and as it stands we don’t know what postcodes are eligible for that.”

A roundtable forum was held in Canberra last Tuesday where Myrtleford was represented by Chamber of Commerce secretary Kerry Murphy alongside representatives from Bright and Beechworth.

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”.

“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, a dedicated and single contact point to help them access the support that is available.

Financial counselling services targeted at helping small and family business owners deal with the emotional and financial challenges they will face is also available.

Independent MP Helen Haines (MHR, Indi) particularly welcomed the announcement for $50,000 interest free loans and tax concessions for bushfire-affected eligible businesses and organisations.

Just last week, Dr Haines wrote to Mr Morrison requesting this support for the Alpine and Wangaratta areas.

“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.”

The Alpine Shire is still waiting for disaster to be declared before $1million in federal funding is made immediately available for residents.

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