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Additional financial support is now available to assist farming families across Gippsland during drought.

The Federal Government has announced two lump sum supplementary payments to the Farm Household Allowance (FHA), which will provide an extra $12,000 per year to FHA for eligible households.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said eligibility rules had also been expanded to allow thousands more farmers access to the FHA.

“Under the package announced today, households eligible for the Farm Household Allowance will receive two additional lump sum payments on September 1, 2018, and March 1, 2019,” Mr Chester said.

“This will increase the support available through FHA by $12,000 per year to a total of $28,000 per year,” Mr Chester said.

“And more farming families will be able to access this support with the net asset threshold cap for FHA increasing from $2.6 million to $5 million.”

Mr Chester welcomed the $190 million package of extra support, which included support for mental health services.

Mr Chester urged farmers to contact their local Rural Financial Counselling (RFC) Service to check their eligibility.

“It’s important farming families do not self-assess and that they work with the local RFC service to make sure they accessing all available support,” Mr Chester said.

“It is estimated an additional 8,000 farmers will become eligible for FHA support under the increased asset threshold.”

Today’s announcement brings the total support provided by the Federal Government to households and communities during the current drought to more than $576 million with more to come.

Additional measures announced today also include:

• An extra $5 million for the Rural Financial Counselling Service to provide additional support to farmers, particularly those applying for FHA for the first time;

• $15 million to help the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal with small grants for not-for-profit community groups.

• $11.4 million in mental health initiatives, including:

· more funding for Primary Health Networks in drought-affected areas;

· those receiving counselling through Skype will no longer need to have their first appointment in person, in recognition of the long distances and cost of travel for rural people;

· An Empowering Communities program to enable local communities to tailor local mental health responses to their needs and improve mental health and community resilience;

· ReachOUT will receive funding to raise awareness in drought-affected areas of their youth and children’s counselling services.

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