Millions of dollars of support for bushfire-impacted Gippslanders is continuing to flow despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to local MP Darren Chester.
Mr Chester said government assistance was still available to those impacted directly and indirectly by the fires to help get back on their feet.
“There are communities in Gippsland which have endured a triple blow: first drought, then bushfires and now the coronavirus,” Mr Chester said.
“While much of media attention is focussed on the virus, I want Gippslanders to know they are not forgotten and the government effort to help those impacted by the fires is continuing.”
The 2019-20 bushfire season tragically cut short 33 lives across Australia, including four from Gippsland. More than 3000 homes, over 7000 facilities and in excess of 12 million hectares of land, including precious native plants, were destroyed. Millions of native animals and birds perished.
Mr Chester said the National Bushfire Recovery Agency was still working to provide immediate bushfire relief together with federal, state and local partners for fire-affected communities like Gippsland, despite the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The National Bushfire Recovery Agency was established to lead and coordinate a national response to rebuilding communities affected by bushfires across large parts of Australia,” Mr Chester said.
“As we learn the extent of the enormous loss and destruction during this last bushfire season, the unfolding coronavirus situation is an additional strain on all of us, particularly for bushfire-affected communities and businesses.
“The bushfire recovery journey is a marathon, not a sprint. We all should be focussed on the long-term recovery efforts.”
Mr Chester said the bushfire recovery agency had so far helped to deliver more than $173 million in disaster recovery payments.
“More than 3800 small businesses have been approved for the new $10,000 grant and more than $10.8 million has been approved in larger recovery payments for small businesses,” Mr Chester said.
“We’ve also seen in excess of $70 million approved for primary producers and more than $3.4 million approved in concessional loans.
“Councils in bushfire-affected areas have spent $60 million in immediate relief and $76 million has been invested into mental health support services for firefighters, emergency service personnel, individuals and communities impacted by bushfire disaster.
“I am still working with my ministerial colleagues to make sure Gippsland has what it needs to get through this difficult time and build back better.
“I ask individuals, families and businesses who have been impacted by the fires, please don’t self-assess or assume you aren’t eligible. If you are in need, reach out for support. There is still help available.”
People needing help should visit the National Bushfire Recovery Agency website at www.bushfirerecovery.gov.au