Bega Valley Shire Council Mayor Sharon Tapscott has announced the Bega Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund has made 317 payments of $500 to households experiencing bushfire-related hardship in the region.
The fund made its first round of payments, which Mayor Tapscott said will arrive in coming days, to give people who need it most a financial boost.
“A total of $158,500 has been processed in this round, leaving a healthy balance of more than $500,000 in the fund,” she said.
“It’s really heartening knowing that all of these payments come from goodwill, given by locals and people far afield. The next step is to look at further funding of short-to-medium-term support.”
The payments are non-taxable, and Mayor Tapscott said the fund is perpetual and will offer immediate support as well as reserve funds to allow it to respond quickly in the event of a future disaster.
“Our partnership with the Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast, and our Memorandum of Understanding, ensures involvement of at least two other independent community representatives to discuss how the balance in the fund can be distributed,” she said.
“The committee meets next week, and initial conversations within the community and with key stakeholders point to the support of young people and mental health programs as a priority. I am looking forward to discussing this further.”
Mayor Tapscott said the immediate priority is to offer funding and support to people who have experienced hardship due to the Black Summer bushfires.
“It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and forgotten when you have experienced loss on any scale,” she said. “Our hope is that by distributing these payments, it offers financial help and personal assurance that people should never feel alone.
“This ongoing fund comes from people demonstrating a community spirit to help others in difficult times. We are proud to partner with the community and the Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast in giving help where it is needed.”
The Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast is a self-funded, non-denominational group of volunteers which has been actively operating at a grassroots level in the Sapphire Coast-Bega Valley region since 2011. Its objectives include providing advocacy for disadvantaged people and groups suffering various states of prejudice, poor mental health, disability, domestic violence, poverty, financial and/or social hardship.
One of the group’s immediate responses to the Black Summer bushfires was to coordinate the collection and distribution of dozens of caravans to people who lost their homes as a temporary accommodation solution.
During the past decade, it has built respect and trust within the wider community and with Bega Valley Shire Council.
For more information, visit the Bega Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund website.