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Commonwealth drought relief for small business.

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MEDIA RELEASE ISSUED BY MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY, TOURISM AND RESOURCES IAN MACFARLANE   December 9 2002                                                                         02/243   COMMONWEALTH DROUGHT RELIEF FOR SMALL BUSINESS    Eligible small businesses, struggling with the effects of the drought, will be able to access interest rate relief on up to $100,000 of their borrowings in an unprecedented Federal Government initiative announced today.

Federal Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, welcomed the Prime Minister's announcement as further evidence of the Howard Government's commitment to small business, particularly in regional Australia.

"There are otherwise viable small businesses which are suffering at the moment, directly due to the drought. These are good businesses, which have a future and just require a helping hand to cope with the extreme conditions in rural Australia," said Mr Macfarlane.

Small businesses in Exceptional Circumstances declared areas who are suffering a significant fall in turnover or cash flow due to the drought will be eligible for the assistance.

Payment of up to 50% of their interest bill or 5 percentage points, whichever is the lower, is being offered. Interest rate support will be available for up to two years to assist small businesses survive and recover.

Companies will need to meet a number of criteria including:

A minimum annual turnover of $50,000; ● Fewer than 20 employees; ● Demonstration of a close connection to a drought-affected community; and ● A 50% fall in business turnover in the last 6 months. ●

Centrelink offices in areas declared to be suffering from Exceptional Circumstances will assist in the delivery of this program, allowing for this initiative to hit the ground running from next week.

"This is about getting the assistance to where it is needed as quickly and efficiently as possible. The Howard Government has listened and swiftly reacted to the needs of small business, in light of the extreme circumstances they are enduring," said Mr Macfarlane.

"I urge State Governments to stop their dithering and look at what they can do to help small business in this time of need. This package, will provide genuine hope to regional Australia and ensure that when the drought breaks local communities can rebuild," he said.

Centrelink Hotline 13 23 16. Media contact: Kirsty Boazman, 02 62777580 or 0412171444. CMR02-314