Demand for financial counselling is expected to increase markedly in the second half of 2020 as small businesses and sole traders realise the full impact on their trade resulting from last summer’s bushfires and ongoing shutdowns due to COVID-19. General manager of the Small Business Bushfire Financial Counselling Support Line, Helen Davis said many small businesses and sole traders had exhausted their financial and emotional reserves, or they had few remaining. “Small businesses are increasingly worried about how they will continue to run their business and make a living for themselves and their families,” Ms Davis said. “Some small business owners are considering the viability of their small business and the option of closure. They need support and the best available information to make these difficult decisions.” Financial counsellors on the Small Business Bushfire Financial Counselling Support Line are providing free, independent, non-judgmental and confidential advice to small businesses about managing business and personal debt; disputing matters in external dispute resolution schemes; or renegotiating repayment arrangements on tax, lease, utility, supply or any other business debt. Ms Davis said financial counsellors could provide information for grant or loan options to keep small business going or support a restructure. They could also provide information on how changes to the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program at the end of September may impact on them and their staff. “Free and independent financial counselling is critical to business owners making the decisions that are right for them,” Ms Davis said. “For those struggling with business and personal debts; or needing to negotiate repayment arrangements on their business debts, a financial counsellor can support you through the process of understanding your options and making those important decisions.” Ms Davis said finding the appropriate government services and grants has been the first step for many small businesses in addressing the loss of trade following the bushfires and COVID-19 lockdowns. “Ideally, financial counsellors want to be working with small business operators as early as possible, before they are facing serious and potentially insurmountable financial issues,” she said. “We expect we will continue to see an increase in the number of businesses needing support in making decisions to restructure or close. “We are urging small business operators to contact us and seek the help that is available.” The free Small Business Bushfire Financial Counselling Support Line number is 1800 413 828 or go to the website at www.smallbusinessbushfire.org.au
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