Rebekha welcomes extension of rural financial counselling services
Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has welcomed a 12-month extension of financial counselling services for farm and rural small businesses reeling from recent severe weather events.
The Co-ordinator-General of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency, Mr Shane Stone, yesterday announced the $8.6 million extension program to be rolled out nationally from January 2022.
The Regional Small Business Support Program builds on the successful Drought Communities Small Business Support Program that was due to wind up at Christmas.
“I was deeply concerned that farmers and small businesses in rural communities in Mayo and across South Australia were going to be without support as they face another round of severe weather events on the back of drought, bushfire, and COVID restrictions,” Rebekha said.
“It’s why I raised the matter in Question Time in Federal Parliament this week and followed up the matter with Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.
“I know from my discussions with Rural Business Support in SA that the October hail storm, ongoing rain events, and the shutdown of the oyster industry have caused a surge in demand for specialist financial advice.
“It’s not just farmers who are hit hard by these events. There are many small businesses in our regions that rely on our agricultural sector and are impacted when there is a downturn in the local economy.
“The original program was well received and did power of good for rural businesses, helping them with financial planning and taxation advice, and assisting them to build financial and risk management capability.
“The extension provides certainty to those businesses already receiving support and a lifeline to those businesses who need help now.
“I would urge any rural small business in Mayo and in SA experiencing hardship to reach out to Rural Business Support on 1800 836 211.”
The $14 million Drought Communities Small Business Support Program started in July 2020 and employed 22 small business counsellors in regional communities over 12 months, including eight in South Australia and Northern Territory.
Rebekha successfully advocated for four of the financial counsellors for bushfire-affected regions in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island, doubling the SA/NT allocation to the eight funded positions for a total funding allocation of more than $2.4 million.
The exact number of financial counsellors to be funded in SA/NT under the extension is yet to be confirmed.
The National Recovery and Resilience Agency reported that the original program supported more than 1,350 regional small businesses employing approximately 3,100 people. More than 300 businesses received support in SA/NT.