Bushfire recovery grants extended to support farmers and small business in Victoria

The application deadlines for two popular bushfire recovery grants will be extended to 31 January 2021 – grants providing up to $75,000 to primary producers and $10,000 to small businesses affected by the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires.

Australian Minister for Emergency Management David Littleproud and Victorian Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville today said thousands of small businesses and primary producers have received the grants to date.

“We’re now putting the call out to those farmers and business owners who have taken the time to assess their circumstances and now may be ready to apply,” Minister Littleproud said.

“These grants have helped many enterprises that have endured not one but two major disasters – so if you haven’t yet put in an application, now’s the time,” Minister Neville said.

The Emergency Bushfire in Primary Industries Grants of up to $75,000 were announced in the days after the fires in Victoria reached their peak. As of 9 December, 437 primary production enterprises across Victoria have received the grant.

The grants are open to primary producers, including wine grape growers, who were directly impacted by fire and can be used to cover the costs of farm recovery works. In July, based on feedback from bushfire-affected communities, the eligibility criteria were expanded to increase access to the grants. The grants are available in 19 Victorian Local Government Areas and four Alpine Resorts. 192 farm businesses have claimed the grant in Towong Shire, and 175 in East Gippsland Shire.

East Gippsland wildflower farmers Milusa and Kevin Giles received an Emergency Bushfire in Primary Industries grant earlier this year, which they planned to use to pay for a new shed, fencing and a tractor. Milusa and Kevin said they made the decision to rebuild their farm based on the support they had received from government and their community.

“Over $28 million worth of primary producer grants have gone out the door so far in Victoria, and they’ve been a real lifeline for farmers trying to get back on their feet,” Minister Littleproud said.

“Many rural communities in the North East and East Gippsland, such as Buchan, are built around the agricultural industry, so the broader economic and community impact of these grants is significant,” Minister Neville said.

The $10,000 Small Business Bushfire Support Grant was announced in March 2020, based directly on calls from the community to assist smaller businesses, including primary producers, who weren’t impacted by flame but were still struggling with significant income loss caused by the bushfires. The grant is also available to directly impacted businesses.
As of 9 December, 2259 small businesses (including primary producers) have claimed the $10,000 grant, with over $22.2 million paid out. Over 900 of these businesses are located in East Gippsland Shire, 605 in Alpine Shire, and 211 in Towong Shire. Businesses located in Wellington, Mansfield, Indigo and Wangaratta shires, and the Alpine Resorts, are also eligible.

“Recipients of this grant have made the most of one of the simplest grant application processes ever rolled out in Victoria after a disaster,” Minister Neville said.
One of the recipients was Alpine Aspects, a picturesque Bright hotel owned by Craig and Kathy Hogan. Fires wiped out the business’s income during one of the busiest times of the year, but its owners said the grant was a “godsend” that “enabled us to stay on our feet.”

When preparing to apply, Craig Hogan said he was “expecting something massive” but “the process was really straightforward – the team were really helpful, they told me what I needed to do, and then it was just a matter of filling it out.”

Both the Emergency Bushfire in Primary Industries Grants and the Small Business Bushfire Support Grants are jointly funded by the Australian and Victorian governments under Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements and will now close on 31 January 2021.

“I encourage all businesses to have a look and see what you are eligible for – it might be more than you think,” Minister Littleproud said.

To apply for these grants, visit www.ruralfinance.com.au or call their hotline at 1800 260 425. To see what financial support is available for bushfire-affected businesses, primary producers, community groups or individuals, visit Bushfire Recovery Victoria at www.brv.vic.gov.au, call 1800 560 760 or visit your local Recovery Hub.

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