16 December 2019

Bushfire victims could have financial assistance by Christmas under new government schemes

| Dominic Giannini
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Dog Leg Farm was destroyed by bushfire

Animal sanctuary and hobby farm Dog Leg Farm in Bombay had their property destroyed by bushfires. Photo: Supplied.

Families affected by bushfires in the Queanbeyan-Palerang, Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla council areas, among other parts of NSW, will be able to access financial help before Christmas after the Australian Government opened two grants programs for residents severely impacted by the fires.

The Australian Government’s Disaster Recovery Payment (DRP) and Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA) are designed to provide fast financial support, a spokesperson from the NSW Office of Emergency Management told Region Media.

Federal Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the money was to help those people suffering as a direct result of the bushfires.

“This is for people whose homes have been badly damaged or destroyed, who have been seriously injured or who have lost a family member,” Minister Littleproud said.

“This is immediate assistance and can help cover costs while waiting for things like insurance to come through.

“It will take time for lives to return to normal and these payments will help to make the recovery smoother and quicker.”

One-off payments of $1000 per adult and $400 per child are now available through the DRP and can be paid out in as little as a day or two after the criteria are deemed to have been met by an assessor. Assessors are already making their way through the fire grounds, with most properties being pretty easy to evaluate, the spokesperson told Region Media.

As for those who have had their pay affected by the bushfires, the DRA is giving farmers and other people who have had their businesses destroyed by the fires up to 13 weeks of income support and has been extended to include people in the Eurobodalla, Queanbeyan-Palerang and Shoalhaven areas.

Mr Littleproud said the allowance was for those who had lost their income as a direct result of the fires.

“This lets people who cannot earn an income because of the fires stay in their homes,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The Federal Government will keep standing shoulder-to-shoulder with these communities until they’re back on their feet.”

The income support payments are capped at the equivalent rates of Newstart or Youth Allowance. Under Newstart, maximum fortnightly payments are $559 for singles, $605 for a single with a dependent child or children, and $505 for partnered people.

However, it is unclear whether prolonged smoke and haze from bushfires that may have affected the day-to-day running of small businesses, such as farmers not being able to harvest crops because of hazardous air-quality, will be accepted under these grants. If work was untenable due to risky conditions then they could qualify for the grants the spokesperson said, but this will likely involve discretion being applied on a case-by-case basis.

Neither of the payments will be capped.

These grants are on top of assistance being provided by the jointly funded Commonwealth-State disaster recovery funding arrangements.

Under the arrangement, Recovery Grants of up to $15,000 can be accessed to help primary producers, small businesses and non-for-profits cover clean-up and immediate restoration costs.

While residents of the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council cannot yet apply for these grants online, the program has been extended to cover those affected by the North Black Range fire as government departments continue to collect impact assessment data from the ground.

Because of the unprecedented, and massive areas burnt by the bushfires across the state, the process will take a little longer, a spokesperson from the NSW Office of Emergency Management said.

An initial pool of $25 million will be set aside for the grants the spokesperson said; however, more will likely be added if this limit is reached to stop people missing out.

The NSW Government also removed waste levy fees on the disposal of bushfire-generated waste at nominated facilities, which includes items like building materials and furniture.

The state and federal grants are not mutually exclusive, Mr Littleproud said.

“This payment is on top of earlier assistance provided in partnership with the NSW Government,” he said.

“We will make further support available for bushfire affected communities as it is needed.”

Claims for the DRP and DRA opened from Wednesday, December 11. For information and how to make a claim through these programs www.humanservices.gov.au/disaster or call 180 22 66.

More information on the Commonwealth-State disaster recovery funding arrangements can be found at https://www.raa.nsw.gov.au or call 1800 678 593.

Original Article published by Dominic Giannini on The RiotACT.

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