The region’s peak business organisation, the Illawarra Business Chamber, has today welcomed the Federal Government’s Bushfire Affected Small Business Rebuild package as a remedy for small businesses indirectly impacted by recent bushfires.
"For months now, the impact on businesses that did not suffer direct property damage has been severe, as they suffered through a collapse in visitation and the cashflow crisis that followed without access to either federal or state government grants," said Adam Zarth, Executive Director of the Illawarra Business Chamber.
"Instead they were referred to a concessional loans scheme that had a highly complex application process and requirements that were exceptionally difficult to meet.
“Only yesterday I joined business-owners in Ulladulla who expressed their desperate need for cash support, and easier access to both concessional loans and financial advice.”
“I am pleased that the federal government is now responding to concerns that we have raised on behalf of businesses who are hurting across the Southern Highlands, Shoalhaven and along the South Coast.”
“This will be the first time that businesses indirectly impacted by bushfires have had access to government grants. "I know of so many small businesses across bushfire-affected areas in Southern NSW that have experienced a 40 percent drop in revenue or greater, and they will now have access to a $10,000 grant.”
“Importantly, this will allow all affected businesses to seek support and spend locally, for instance seeking financial advice from their accountant or planner, covering staffing costs, and generally keeping businesses up and running.”
“We have also received feedback that the complexity and sheer volume of documentation required to access concessional loans has been prohibitive, so we are pleased to see existing eligibility requirements relaxed and simplified, and that the government will position advisors to assist business owners with their application.”
“This is a welcome response from government, however businesses in bushfire affected regions still seek assurance that they will not be forgotten in the government’s response to COVID-19, including the expected stimulus package,” said Mr Zarth.
The announcements include:
· A new $10,000 grant to assist small businesses in bushfire-affected regions that have experienced a 40 percent drop in revenue over a three-month period compared to the previous year,
· Easier access to concessional loans of up to $50,000, and
· Business advisors to provide tailored advice. Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips MP has welcomed the government’s decision to provide $10,000 grants to bushfire impacted local businesses. However, she questioned why it has taken this long.
Mrs Phillips has been sounding the alarm about the unfolding economic crisis on the South Coast for months. Local businesses have been struggling to recover from the loss of the summer income since December and many have already been forced to close.
Last week, Mrs Phillips met with Minister David Littleproud and the head of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency to raise these concerns directly and she is pleased to see the government has listened to what local people have been saying.
“For months, I have been calling on the government to provide a direct cash injection to local businesses. Every day I am speaking with businesses that are crying out for support and it is great that the government has finally started listening,” the Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips said.
“Businesses have been struggling for far too long and the government’s response so far has been totally inadequate.
“I encourage the government to consider further support for workers through extended eligibility and access to wage assistance programs for small businesses significantly directly and indirectly affected by the bushfire crisis.
“While I welcome this announcement, we know the government has bungled implementation of these packages before, so I will be watching this very closely to make sure this help is working for local people.”