Communities across the New England will have increased access to drought assistance, with the Coalition Government rolling out a further $100 million in financial aid to farmers and rural communities.
Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, said a key component of the funding is an additional $33.4 million to be delivered under the Drought Community Support Initiative for immediate financial assistance to eligible households in hardship.
“Farming households can receive up to $3,000 to spend in their local communities to cover urgent bills such as food, petrol and utilities, taking stress off families and boosting our local economies,” Mr Joyce said.
“Crucially, this payment is also available to farm workers and contractors many who are also struggling financially through a lack of work and deserve assistance as well.”
The Coalition Government will work with the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul Society to make sure this money hits the ground quickly and gets to those most in need.
The latest assistance package follows the advocacy of Mr Joyce, who in his former role as the Special Envoy for Drought Assistance and Recovery, delivered advice direct to the Prime Minister about what additional assistance was required in our drought towns.
“People in the New England are at the epicentre of this drought and its effects are not just felt on the farm – regional communities and businesses suffer as people spend less in towns,” he said.
“That’s why during my time as the Drought Envoy, I put my shoulder to the wheel and advocated regularly to the Prime Minister and helped to deliver funding like this and the highly successful Drought Communities Programme, which provided every council in the New England with up to $1 million to spend as they saw fit in their communities.”
Under the Drought Communities Programme Extension another 13 councils will have access to up to $1 million each to complete local infrastructure and drought-relief projects.
The government will also simplify Farm Household Allowance applications. The changes will remove business income reconciliation, change the time limit on payment to four years in every ten, simplify the assets test and recognise agistment.
“I fought to make sure we hosted a hearing of the Australia-wide FHA review here in the New England so local residents could have their say on these important changes,” Mr Joyce said.
“Some of the feedback from the Tamworth hearing we actually implemented into the changes such as a simplified application process.”
The government also announced an injection of $740,000 of contingency funding to five Rural Financial Counselling Service providers who are experiencing pressure from increased demand.
“It’s really important that those in need of support do not self-assess their eligibility and instead seek advice from an expert, like a rural financial counsellor,” he said.
For more information and to apply for assistance visit agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought or call 1800 900 090.