February 5, 2020 Small business

SUPPORT FOR BUSHFIRE AFFECTED BUSINESSES

There is support available for small business owners impacted by the devastating Australian bushfires. Shops and small businesses are an important part of communities, providing work and services, buying materials and making products to sell. We’ve compiled this roundup of Government and community-initiated support options available to business owners get back on their feet.

GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES

The Australian and state governments are keen to help bushfire-affected small businesses, and the Prime Minister’s recent Press Release has announced a suite of support measures.

At the moment your small business might be damaged, at limited capacity or impacted by a drop in tourism. Consider the grants, loans and allowances now available, that might be right for your situation. Check both federal and state assistance.

The Australian Tax Office is offering support for bushfire affected businesses. The ATO will work with individuals and businesses to address outstanding taxation debts and establish repayment arrangements within your stressed financial position. Visit the ATO website or call 1800 806 218 to discuss your situation.

Keep up-to-date via the National Bushfire Recovery Agency website, which includes information on support available for businesses. You’ll also find news from the National Bushfire Recovery Coordinator on visits to affected communities and regular updates on the Australian Government’s Bushfire response.

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) has a lot of information available about resolving issues and planning your recovery. If your small business office or workplace is in Canberra, and has been affected by bushfires, the ASBFEO has free facilities, including desks and meeting rooms in the heart of Canberra, open 8am-5pm Monday to Friday.

QLD: Affected businesses in Queensland can apply for support and assistance through the Queensland Bushfire Relief.

SA: A recovery package and a range of support services are available to South Australian businesses through the Small Business Bushfire Recovery Grant.

TAS: The Tasmanian Government has announced new grant programs to support local businesses affected by bushfires.

VIC: Business Victoria’s dedicated Bushfire Recovery Page features services and information available to assist Victorian businesses affected by the recent bushfires.

NSW: Service NSW is working in collaboration with federal, state and local government to bring together all the support and services available for bushfire-affected NSW businesses.

Rural Fire Service Volunteers in NSW who are self-employed or work for small and medium businesses, and who have been called out for more than 10 days this fire season, will be able to apply for payments.

Former NEIS client Lisa operates her hand-poured candle business Just Enough Beach in Yamba, northern NSW. She is full of gratitude for our fire-fighters. Rural fire brigade volunteers work in a range of businesses and industries, and many are themselves self-employed. “Thank you to the guys fighting fires in our area and Australia. I work, like many do, in a regional area,” says Lisa. “I saw the looks and exhaustion on people’s faces as they lost property or had fires near them and had everything they owned packed in a car, needing a place to stay. Words can’t express our gratitude for protecting our community so we can keep our small businesses ticking over and feel safe in your hands.”

COMMUNITY INITIATIVES

The broader community is keen to help small business owners impacted by the bushfires. Let them know who you are, where your business is and what you have to offer. Make contact with dedicated Facebook groups, websites and Instagram accounts set up to promote fire-affected small businesses. This might be just an extension of the marketing you had in place before the bushfires. It could mean more exposure and more sales. Provide clear details and descriptions accompanied by appealing photos, to help people find you.

Spend With Them Instagram account has amassed almost 200,000 followers – each post promotes a small business in a fire-affected area; from local fresh produce, to fashion, art and wines. Register yours.

It’s My Shout is an online platform that lets people pay for virtual products from businesses impacted by the drop in tourism since the bushfires. There are well over 100 businesses represented in East Gippsland alone, where customers can buy virtual beer, dinner and accommodation, with proceeds going to those local businesses. Real coffee is made available for locals to claim, by people choosing a registered cafe and paying for a coffee online. Register your business to participate.

Shop 2 Support is a Facebook group for businesses affected by the bushfire devastation to post information about their brands and products. Bed & Breakfast places and caravan parks can also help plan itineraries for people, sharing travel routes through bushfire affected areas (declared safe to visit), and assisting with accommodation bookings. Join the group – the supportive comments are worth reading.

Empty Esky gained 10,000 Instagram followers in under 24 hours. Followers pledge to visit a fire-affected area and buy produce. Businesses from those areas feature their products and encourage visitors. The idea within the name is nice – don’t just visit, stock up.

Stay With Them profiles businesses offering accommodation in fire-affected regions. There are a range of accommodation types, showing their best features and their area’s most beautiful views. This exposure is especially crucial to get people to towns that are not a day trip from major population centres.

Backing the Bush, launched by The NSW Business Chamber, is helping communities suffering from the impacts of bushfire by calling on city-based organisations to publicly pledge to hold a board, management or staff meeting that would normally be held in the city, in an affected regional area. This will help businesses of all sizes, from the venue, to the caterers, the cleaners and local food businesses – everyone in the town benefits.

The immediate aftermath of this disaster (there are still fires burning as this story is posted) will be hard; and the weeks, months and even years to come will be difficult mentally on individuals and families. Talk to friends – and talk to professionals. Counselling is becoming available for those affected by the bushfires – keep up-to-date with services in your area.

Look after yourselves, we are all thinking of you.

NEIS is an Australian Government sponsored new business training program, to assist with self-employment. Use the postcode finder for your local provider and contact them for a chat.

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