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Drought & Bushfire Disaster Assistance – What Is Available

Posted on January 31, 2020
by Sarah Cross in Business Advisory Services, BUSINESS Blogs & Business Insights

If you aren’t directly impacted by the drought and bushfires taking a toll on many Australian people and businesses, chances are you know someone who is.

We are all aware of the devastation these events are causing in Australia, so this article is to ensure our clients, other businesses, and those people you know who are affected, have as much information as possible on what disaster assistance is out there.

Currently there are multiple forms of assistance available for small businesses and primary producers at both a state and federal level in response to the current bushfire crisis in Australia. Below is a snapshot of the current assistance available in New South Wales (NSW) in response to bushfires from approximately August 2019 as well as some involving the drought.

A few things to note with respect to the current disaster assistance available:

  • They each have their own eligibility criteria – see links below for further details for the various types of assistance available
  • Damage that is covered by insurance will not be eligible (unless stated otherwise)
  • Applications close at different times depending on the disaster date – please check the guidelines by following the links provided to ensure you are applying within the available time period

Keep in mind to also contact your insurers or brokers to see if they have assistance available that is specific to your business and circumstances.

For our clients, their family and friends, please contact our office and one of our team members will be able to assist with applications and determining your eligibility, at no cost.

State Level Assistance (NSW) – Grants & Subsidies

  • Disaster Recovery Grant of $15,000 – available for small business and not-for-profit (NFP) organisations in Local Government Areas (LGAs) affected by NSW bushfires that meet the eligibility criteria. See here for more details/application, here for guidelines/eligibility on small business and here for guidelines/eligibility on NFP.
  • Special Disaster Grant – Bushfire of $75,000 – available for eligible primary producers in LGAs affected by NSW bushfires that meet the eligibility criteria. See here for more details/application and here for guidelines/eligibility.
  • Emergency Drought Transport Subsidy up to $50,000 – for freight expenses to cover the cost of transporting fodder, water for stock and domestic use, stock, farm chemicals, fertiliser and seed to farms. See here for more details/application and here for guidelines/eligibility.
  • Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme up to $25,000 – available to eligible primary producers for rebate on new purchases and installation costs of water infrastructure projects for animal welfare needs. See here for more details/application and here for guidelines/eligibility.
  • Animal Welfare Transport Subsidy – permanently available to eligible primary producers for the transport of stock at risk– maximum $20,000 per farm business. See here for more details/application and here for guidelines/eligibility.
  • Donated Fodder Transport Subsidy $5/km up to 1,500kms– available to assist with the cost of transporting donated fodder organised by community groups or other organisations within NSW to a central location for distribution to properties affected by drought and other emergencies. See here for more details/application and here for guidelines/eligibility.
  • Transport Subsidy Natural Disaster $5/km – available to eligible farm businesses affected by a declared natural disaster. Maximum claims depend on the type of item transported (e.g. stock, water). See here for more details/application and here for guidelines/eligibility.

State Level Assistance (NSW) – Loans

  • Farm Innovation Fund- $1M – available for eligible NSW farmers up to $1M per project to build on-farm infrastructure, including stock and containment areas. Up to 20 year term, P&I repayments. Interest waived for 2020FY. See here for more details/application and here for guidelines/eligibility.
  • Drought Assistance Fund – $50,000 interest free loan – available to eligible primary producers to implement systems and management practices that enhance sustainability of their farm businesses. 2 years repayment free, then up to 5 years of principal repayments. See here for more details/application and here for guidelines/eligibility.
  • Disaster Relief Loans – Primary Producers – $130,000 low interest loan – available to eligible primary producers directly affected by declared natural disasters who are in urgent and genuine need of assistance. 10 year loan term, first two years are repayment and interest free – interest rate currently 0.82%. See here for more details/application and here for guidelines/eligibility.
  • Disaster Relief Loans – Small Business – $130,000 low interest loan – available to eligible small businesses directly affected by declared natural disasters who are in urgent and genuine need of assistance. 10 year loan term, first two years are repayment and interest free – interest rate currently 0.82%. See here for more details/application and here for guidelines/eligibility.

Federal Level Assistance – Grants & Subsidies

  • Tax-Free Recovery Grant of $50,000 – announced by Federal Government on 20 January 2020. Available for eligible small business and not-for-profit organisations. See here for more details. To register for this grant see here.

Federal Level Assistance – Loans

  • $500,000 Concessional Loan – announced by Federal Government on 20 January 2020. Available to eligible small businesses. 10 year repayment terms – up to two years repayment and interest free. Subsequent interest rate set at 50% of ten-year Commonwealth government bond rate, currently around 0.6%. See here for more details. Application details will be posted here when available.
  • AgBiz Drought Loans – $500,000 – available to eligible small businesses who are currently or has been supplying goods or services relating to primary production to farm businesses in an affected area. 10 year repayment terms – first two years are interest and repayment free, following three years interest only, last 5 years P&I repayments – current variable rate 3.11%. See here for more details, applications and eligibility criteria.
  • Farm Investment Loans – up to $2M – available for eligible farm business owners. 10 year repayment terms – five years interest only, P&I for remainder. After 10 years you can refinance remaining balance with commercial lender. See here for more details, applications and eligibility criteria.
  • Drought Loans – up to $2M – available to eligible farm business owners in an eligible area. 10 year repayments terms – 2 years interest free, 3 years interest only and 5 years P&I – current variable rate 3.11%. After 10 years you can refinance any remaining balance with a commercial lender. See here for more details, applications and eligibility criteria.

ATO Concessions

In addition to the above, there have been several concessions from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for those in areas affected by the bushfires in recent months, these include:

  • Debt recovery – outstanding tax debts and obligations – ATO will not initiate debt recovery action until at least 28 May 2020.
  • Variation of income tax instalments – quarterly tax instalments for December 2019 can be varied to nil with no implications for underpaying instalments for the 2020 Financial Year. In addition, those in eligible areas can claim a refund for any instalments made in the September 2019 quarter.
  • Deferral of lodgment and payment obligations – business activity statements, income tax returns, SMSF returns and FBT return lodgment and payment due dates deferred to 28 May 2020.
  • Interest & Penalties automatically remitted – any interest and penalties applied to tax debts since the commencement of the bushfires that have been applied to accounts of individuals and businesses located in impacted regions.
  • Payment plans – tailored to your circumstances including interest free periods.
  • Refunds fast-tracked – any expected refunds are being fast-tracked (i.e. tax refunds, GST refunds, fuel tax credits, PAYGI variations etc) – automatically actioned if you are in an impacted region.
  • Choice to change GST reporting method to monthly – to fast track GST refunds, this includes fuel tax credit reporting.

For more information regarding ATO support available, visit their website here.

Other Areas of Disaster Assistance

Other measures announced by various agencies include:

  • Wages paid to volunteer firefighters and emergency service volunteers are exempt from Payroll Tax – payments do not include wages paid or payable as recreation leave, annual leave, long service leave or sick leave. See details of exempt wages here.
  • Tax-Free Volunteer Firefighter/SES Payment – payments of up to $300 per day, with a total cap of $6,000 for the 2020 Financial Year for firefighters/SES volunteers who have been called out for more than 10 days since 1 July 2019. See here for more details including eligibility and applications.
  • Assistance from your bank – many financial institutions (e.g. NAB & CBA) have announced that they emergency assistance packages available for their customers that have been impacted by the bushfires. Get in contact with your bank to discuss the options available.

Please remember our team are available to assist our clients, their family and friends, with any disaster assistance applications and determining your eligibility, at no cost.

You can speak to our team now by calling (02) 4229 2211 or get in touch with us online.

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