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Changes have been made to grant programs for primary producers and small businesses so more Gippslanders affected by the summer bushfires can receive government support.

Primary producers and small businesses in East Gippsland and Wellington shires will benefit from time and eligibility amendments made to the Federal Government programs.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester encouraged those impacted by the fires in the two municipalities who hadn’t yet applied for assistance to do so.

“There are many businesses significantly impacted by the fires which lost many thousands of dollars because the roads were closed and visitors were sent home,” Mr Chester said.

“The financial losses have been enormous and I hope the changes that have been made to these grant programs will help more local businesses get through this tough period.

“By supporting local businesses, we are supporting local jobs.”

Key eligibility changes to the primary producer grants include:

  • Removal of the off-farm income threshold where an applicant’s income from primary production is less than 50 per cent of their total income
  • Allowing extra time for applicants to reach the 50 per cent income threshold in recognition of long lead times required by some sectors to reach full production
  • Applicants are no longer required to be registered for GST but must hold an ABN, and
  • Businesses earning more than 50 per cent of their income from a combination of primary production and goods made directly from that produce are now eligible.

Mr Chester said applications for primary producer and small business assistance grants and concessional loans of up to $500,000 could now also be submitted until December 2020.

“These changes will be welcome news for those who have been busy looking after their businesses and farms following the fires and haven’t had time to look into what government assistance may be available to them,” Mr Chester said.

Government representatives will contact grant applicants who did not meet the original criteria to confirm their situation and re-assess their eligibility under the new guidelines.

Primary producers and small business owners in East Gippsland and Wellington can contact the Victorian recovery hotline on 1800 560 760 to discuss their circumstances with a recovery officer.

Further details are available on the National Bushfire Recovery Agency website.

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