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Enhanced access to drought assistance for small business.

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The drought has had a profound effect on communities, affecting not just farmers but also impacting on the many small businesses that depend on the rural sector. While recent rains in parts of the country are welcome, it is apparent that many of these businesses will continue to feel the effects of the drought for some time.

I am pleased to announce changes to the eligibility criteria for the Small Business Interest Rate Relief programme. These changes will allow more small businesses to access assistance under the programme.

The Small Business Interest Rate Relief programme was announced in December 2002 as part of the government’s package of drought assistance measures. It provides interest rate relief to eligible businesses of up to $10,000 over a two-year period. Eligible businesses are facing difficulties because they rely on areas declared as suffering Exceptional Circumstances due to the drought.

The changes include an easing of the threshold for the decline in turnover businesses have experienced under the drought, a reduction in the required minimum average annual turnover, and an easing in the requirement for a minimum proportion of turnover to be earned within Exceptional Circumstances areas. The details of the changes are attached.

Eligibility for interest rate assistance is not confined to small businesses. Larger businesses may be eligible if they too are substantially reliant on the farm sector in an Exceptional Circumstances area.

Applications already lodged with Centrelink will be reassessed against the criteria. Centrelink will also re-contact earlier callers who have provided their details.

4 July 2003

Amendments to the eligibility criteria for the Small Business Interest Rate Relief (SBIRR) Programme

The following changes to the eligibility criteria for the SBIRR programme now apply:

• the required reduction in turnover is lowered from 50 per cent to 30 per cent, when compared with the average of the same six-month period in the previous three years;

• minimum average annual turnover for the past three years is reduced from $50,000 to $30,000;

• small business outside an EC area need to have at least 50 per cent of their turnover from an EC area (currently 75 per cent); and

• removal of the current requirement for small businesses inside an EC area that at least 60 or 75 per cent of turnover (depending on whether the owner resides in an EC area) be from EC areas.

Further information about the programme can be obtained by telephoning the Centrelink hotline on 13 23 16 or by visiting