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Mayor cautiously optimistic about business bushfire help

Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes is cautiously optimistic about yesterday’s expansion of the joint Commonwealth-NSW Government small business bushfire package.

“We thank the federal and state governments for hearing the feedback and responding, however, until we see the money flowing to our businesses, we’ll reserve our judgement.

The expanded package sees the Australian Government offering $10,000 grants to small businesses that have experienced a 40 per cent drop in revenue over a three-month period compared to the previous year, as a result of bushfires.

Eligibility for loans of up to $50,000 has been relaxed and simplified, and more business advisers will be made available to work directly with small business owners. It is understood existing applications for grants and loans will be re-assessed against the new conditions.

“While we appreciate the gesture, we respectfully hope both levels of government understand our reservations,” said Clr Innes.

“For some of our smaller businesses, $10,000 could mean the difference between surviving or not. However, it won’t be much help to a business that’s lost hundreds of thousands of dollars this summer, and a $50,000 loan is only kicking debt further down the road.

“We knew we were facing an economic disaster, even while the fires were still burning. For months, good people like Andrew Constance, Mike Kelly and Fiona Phillips have used their parliamentary platform to tell our stories in an effort to get money quickly into the pockets of our small businesses.

“Eurobodalla councillors and our business chambers have been vocal too, representing the needs of our business community at countless meetings and in media interviews to stir the government to action.”

“This assistance was needed much sooner, and more will need to be considered,” the Mayor said.

“The first thing businesses generally do to reduce costs is cut staff. And I’ve heard heartbreaking accounts of business owners needing to let loyal staff go, and others who’ve gone into debt to keep them on. Many of those casual employees have left town to find work, taking their experience with them. The help just didn’t come soon enough.

“We’re very grateful to both levels of government for the support they’re providing and understand these are testing times for everyone. It’s too early to tell what the impact of the Australian government’s stimulus package for coronavirus will be, but we’ll continue to seek a more tailored approach to bushfire assistance,” she said.

“The ATO knows how a business performed last summer. They’ll now know via BAS statements how they performed this summer. This information provides a clear understanding of the financial impact of the fires and an opportunity to provide support appropriate for that business. We’d like to see that investigated.”

Further details of the revised package are available on the National Bushfire Recovery Agency website at www.bushfirerecovery.gov.au/recovery-assistance/small-business

The recovery pages on Council’s website are updated with new information as it comes to hand. Visit www.esc.nsw.gov.au/recovery

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