- Coalition Government announces $190 million package for immediate drought relief.
- The Farm Household Allowance (FHA) will include two lump sum supplementary payments worth up to $12,000 a year
- The FHA assets tests will be changed to allow thousands more farmers to access support.
Farming families across the Calare electorate will receive immediate additional financial support to help them and their communities get through the drought.
The new measures include cash payments totalling $12,000 as part of the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) scheme.
Farming families can now receive up to a total of $28,000 a year in assistance following the announcement of the $12,000 grants to FHA for eligible households.
Thousands more farming families will be able to access the FHA as the Australian Government has also increased the net asset threshold cap from $2.6 million to $5 million.
Today’s announcements bring the total support provided by the Coalition to households and communities in drought to $576 million.
Federal Member for Calare, Andrew Gee said the $190 million package of immediate relief announced today, including support for mental health services, would be welcomed by the farming families doing it tough right across the Central West.
“I’m very pleased that the Federal Government has just announced new drought support measures,” Mr Gee said.
“In the Australian Parliament I’ve been calling for drought relief to be ramped up as conditions worsened and I’m very glad that the call has been answered.
“We’re in this for the long haul and we will stand with our farmers every step of the way.
“I was out visiting drought affected farmers across our region last week and I’ve taken a range of further measures and suggestions back to the government in Canberra, because we’re going to need more support as the weather heats up and the outlook on the land continues to worsen.
“You’ve got to remember that when the Australian economy was in a recent slowdown, it was our farmers and agriculture which got us through. Our farmers have supported us when we needed them, and now we need to be supporting our farmers in any way we can.
“This drought is getting uglier by the day and last week farmers told me it’s so bad that that it’s now beyond anything they have experienced. Many are in unchartered territory.
“Ramping up drought relief is vitally important. We’re going to need more before this thing is through and I’ll continue to push to get it,” Mr Gee added.
Additional measures announced today also include;
- An extra $5 million in the Rural Financial Counselling Service, which will provide additional support for farmers - particularly those applying for the 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 for locally driven targeted support.
- $11.4 million in mental health support initiatives including:
- Additional funding for Primary Health Networks in drought affected areas to cope with increased demand.
- Those accessing counselling via Skype will no longer have their first appointment in person. This recognises the long distances and the cost of travel in money and time for rural people.
- An Empowering Communities program that allows local communities to tailor local mental health responses to their
needs. Eligible communities can apply for funds up to $1 million for community-led initiatives that improve mental health
and community resilience.
- Funding will be provided to ReachOUT to go out into drought affected communities and raise awareness of their youth and
children’s counselling services group.
- Households eligible for the Farm Household Allowance - a fortnightly payment totalling around $16,000 a year to help farming families in tough times - will receive two additional lump sum payments on 1 September 2018 and 1 March 2019. Couples will receive up to an additional $12,000 and single households will receive up to $7,200.
- The change will apply for the remainder of the current financial year, with the review of FHA due back early in 2019 to provide further guidance on this important issue.
- Today’s announcements bring the total support provided by the Coalition Government to households and communities during the current drought to $576 million with more to come. This figure is in addition to the concessional drought loans available to farm businesses through the Regional Investment Corporation and there is more to come.