Federal Member for Calare, Andrew Gee, has welcomed the news of the establishment of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency (NBRA).
Mr Gee said the NBRA would be funded with an initial $2 billion to ensure the families, farmers and business owners hit by these unprecedented bushfires would get the support they needed as they recover.
“While the immediate focus for our emergency services and the Australian Defence Force is keeping people safe and defending against the fires hitting so many areas, we also need to be ready to hit the ground in communities where the fire-front has passed to help them rebuild,” Mr Gee said.
Mr Gee said he has seen first-hand the devastation these fires have caused, and the pressing need for a recovery fund like the NBRA.
“Importantly, the initial $2 billion investment for the Agency and its recovery work would be on top of the existing disaster recovery payments and allowances which have so far seen more than $100 million worth of assistance flowing through to families, small businesses and farmers,” he added.
“Federal grants of $15,000 are now available for bushfire-hit farmers, small businesses and not-for-profit organisations in the Lithgow City Council and Mid-Western Regional Council areas.
“These grants are on top of the Disaster Recovery Payment which provides $1000 for eligible adults and $400 for eligible children.
“And for those who have lost their income as a direct result of the bushfires, the Government will provide those eligible up to 13 weeks income support via the Disaster Recovery Allowance,” he said.
Importantly, Mr Gee noted volunteer firefighters would now receive financial support for loss of income, where they have been called out for extended periods of service.
“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 the payments.
“The payments will provide for lost income of up to $300 per day up to a total of up to $6,000 per person.”
Mr Gee said indicative priorities of the NBRA include:
· primary producer grants for restocking, replanting and fencing
· additional support for small businesses
· grants to bushfire affected Local Government Areas
· a mental health package for first responders and communities
· support to attract tourists back to the regions
· infrastructure projects to support economic
· community and industry recovery and resilience, and
· measures to support the environment and native wildlife.
He said NBRA’s key tasks include building on the effective working relationships with state, territory and local governments, including their recovery and reconstruction bodies, and to work with stakeholders in bushfire affected communities, and relevant Commonwealth agencies to inform and integrate recovery and rebuild activities.
"It will also ensure affected communities have ready access to meaningful support and all available services and developing and coordinating the delivery of a long-term plan for the recovery, rebuild and resilience of bushfire affected communities,” he concluded.
Existing Disaster Recovery Payments are available now and eligibility can be checked at www.humanservices.gov.au/disaster or by calling 180 22 66.
To apply for the $15,000 recovery grant, contact the NSW Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593 or visit www.raa.nsw.gov.au.