Interest-free loans for bushfire businesses



Minister of Emergency Management David Littleproud(right) speaks with Superintendent Tyson Loetzsch at Ripley Fire Station in Ipswich

News

By Loren Webb

Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud is developing an assistance package for businesses affected by the bushfires raging across Australia.

The government is currently offering a one-off $1000 payment for bushfire victims, as well as 13 weeks of income support.

Mr Littleproud said he would announce a program in the coming days that will see bushfire-affected businesses eligible for interest-free loans.

“That would then give $500,000 loans — interest-free, repayment-free for two years — that will help them rebuild their cash flow, that’s an important aspect of it, and it would allow them to even refinance some of their own debt from a commercial bank to the [Regional Investment Corporation] just to give them some breathing space,” Mr Littleproud said.

Former Australian Federal Police boss Mr Colvin pledged to listen and learn from victims and committed to long-term support.

“I’m working at the moment simply trying to get my head around the magnitude and the breadth of the areas affected,” Mr Colvin said.

“There are people who may not have lost their home but they don’t have a workplace to go to. There’s businesses who may … still stand but there’s no customers.”

In an unprecedented move, more than 1000 Army reservists have been called to help in the bushfire response and that number could reach 3000.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has signalled he’s willing to sacrifice a federal budget surplus after announcing a $2 billion relief package and has flagged the potential for a royal commission into the bushfires.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says more than $25 million worth of relief payments have already been made and promised to limit the “red tape” involved.

He has instructed insurance bosses to prioritise local tradespeople when they started paying out for rebuilds.

Welfare debt recovery and mutual obligation requirements in bushfire-affected regions are being suspended for at least two months.

The tax office will not chase up returns in bushfire-affected areas for two years, giving people in those areas some breathing space.

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