Immediate support available for ECEC businesses in bushfire affected communities
The Sector > Economics > Immediate support available for ECEC businesses in bushfire affected communities

Immediate support available for ECEC businesses in bushfire affected communities

by Freya Lucas

January 21, 2020

In response to the recent devastating bushfires which affected much of the country, the Federal Government yesterday announced a “comprehensive suite of measures” to immediately support small business, including those operating in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) space, to “get back on their feet”. 


The initial package responds to the unique needs of small business, and follows a small business roundtable held with representatives from both the Federal Government and chambers of commerce from fire affected regions, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia.


The package will support both those who have been impacted by direct fire damage, and also those who have been indirectly economically impacted following the bushfires. In an ECEC context, an example may be a vacation care program being run by a school committee who had to close their program on multiple days due to catastrophic fire damage. 


A Government spokesperson said the package “deals with the challenges we know small businesses in these areas are facing, and will continue to face. Our immediate priorities for small businesses include grant funding, concessional loans, tax relief, a dedicated and single contact point to help them access the support that is available, and financial counselling services that are targeted to help small and family business owners deal with the emotional and financial challenges they face.”


To build on the disaster recovery grants put in place by state governments, the Federal Government will provide top-up grants to eligible small businesses and non-profit organisations under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.


This program is uncapped, and means that businesses and organisations that have sustained damage as a result of the fires can access up to $50,000 in grant funding (tax free).In addition to the extra support previously announced for families and communities, the Federal Government wants to ensure small businesses have sufficient cashflow to run their operations, and as such, it will “boost the value and concessions for small business loans, also on offer to farmers, primary producers and non-profit organisations, under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements”.

To provide maximum flexibility for eligible businesses, loans of up to $500,000 will be offered for businesses that have suffered significant asset loss or a significant loss of revenue. The loan would be for up to 10 years and used for the purposes of restoring or replacing damaged assets and for working capital.


The loans will be available with a “repayment holiday” of up to two years, with no interest accruing during this period. The subsequent interest rate will be set at 50 per cent of the ten year Commonwealth government bond rate (currently around 0.6 per cent).


A Small Business Bushfire Financial Support Line will be established to support the roll out, at a cost of $3.5 million, which will also fund an additional 10 financial counsellors, with the ability to advise around 100 small businesses a day, a spokesperson said, adding: “We want to ensure small businesses have access to the information that they need, when they need it. The Support Line will be staffed by small business specialist financial counsellors who will be able to provide information on the assistance and support available to small businesses in bushfire affected regions.” 


Whilst the specialist support line is being established, those affected are invited to visit this website, or phone 13 28 46 for more information. 


In addition to the support line, the Commissioner of Taxation has agreed to provide a range of assistance measures to businesses in identified bushfire-impacted postcodes to help to alleviate cash flow pressures and assist these businesses with their recovery efforts.


Taxpayers in impacted postcodes will now have until 28 May 2020 to lodge and pay any business activity statements and income tax returns. Impacted businesses that pay their Pay-As-You-Go Instalments quarterly are also allowed to vary these instalments to zero for the December 2019 quarter and claim a refund for any instalments made in the September 2019 quarter.


More information is available here.

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