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More locals may be eligible for small business drought assistance.



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MEDIA RELEASE Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig Minister for Human Services

Media Contact: Barb Barrett 0448 469 787

More Locals May be Eligible for Small Business Drought Assistance

Small businesses in drought-affected communities are being encouraged to test their eligibility for Australian Government drought assistance.

Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig, said the extension of drought assistance to small businesses in towns with populations of under 10,000 means more people may be eligible for support.

“People often assume only farmers and irrigators are eligible for drought assistance but help is available for the broader community - including businesses.”

“The Australian Government recognises that small businesses are a vital part of rural and regional communities and also suffering severe flow-on effects of the drought,” Senator Ludwig said.

“Drought assistance can ‘make or break’ a small business in towns reliant on the farming sector during prolonged drought so it’s important that owners and operators contact Centrelink to test their eligibility.”

Originally, small businesses - such as contract harvesters, seed, feed or fertiliser suppliers, livestock transporters, suppliers of farm machinery and equipment - needed to show that 70 per cent of their income came from farms in Exceptional Circumstance areas.

The revised criteria also extend assistance to businesses that rely on farm families for their income, are based in small towns and have experienced a drop in income because of the drought.

“This is good news for businesses doing it tough and means hairdressers, cafes and takeaways, mechanics and other tradespeople may now be eligible for small business income support payments and interest rate subsidies,” Senator Ludwig said.

Senator Ludwig said Centrelink has been working hard on the ground to boost awareness of small business drought assistance.

“Centrelink’s Rural Services Officers have been door-knocking hundreds of local businesses while travelling with the Australian Government Drought Buses,” he said.

“Small business seminars have also been held in many communities and more are planned in the months ahead.”

“I encourage local small businesses to test their eligibility by calling the Drought Assistance Hotline on 13 2316. Information is also available at www.centrelink.gov.au,” said Senator Ludwig. .

L39/08 Thursday, 27 March 2008