Getting back to business after the bushfires

- January 31, 2020 2 MIN READ

Many Australian small businesses, particularly those in bushfire-affected areas, have had a tough start to 2020. The devastation has been unprecedented and we know small businesses are hurting, writes Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell.

I’ve been directly involved in the roundtable discussions with the Federal Government, regarding recovery efforts and assistance to small business.

Federal and state governments have responded to those talks with a suite of measures designed to assist small and family businesses dealing with the extraordinary challenges they are facing as a result of the bushfires.

Grants are available to eligible small businesses that have sustained damage in the fires or lost stock as a result of power outages. Insured small businesses with less than 20 employees can claim expenses not covered by their insurance.

Concessional loans of up to $500,000 are available to small businesses that have suffered significant asset or revenue loss. Small businesses have a grace period of two years before making repayments on these loans, which are interest-free for that period. Beyond that, an interest rate of approximately 0.6% applies and small businesses have up to 10 years to repay.

My office is continuing to push for a Government grant that enables small businesses to go to their trusted adviser for a tailored financial recovery plan.

In the meantime, there is a Small Business Financial Support Line that is being established which will be helpful in providing basic information to small businesses.

The ATO has announced a deferral of BAS and other payments (except superannuation) until late May for businesses in fire-affected postcodes.

It’s really important that small businesses take a proactive approach to getting back on track:

  • call your accountant or trusted adviser to develop a customised recovery strategy
  • contact your bank to ask what leniency is available on debts owed
  • speak to your landlord about your rent and the possibility of a reduction or holiday
  • talk to your insurer about  your policy and what you are covered for
  • Talk to your creditors and explain the situation.

Visit the ASBFEO website and take a look at our Open for Business checklist, which provides a number of simple tasks that can help you get back on your feet.

There’s no doubt many small business owners in bushfire affected areas have a long, difficult road ahead of them and may already be experiencing psychological trauma as a result. It’s really important to look after your mental health right now and our My Business Health web portal is a good starting point.

For more information on how to access government assistance and services  go here

Financial ombudsman launches dedicated bushfire hotline


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