Flood-hit FNQ businesses to receive disaster assistance and working capital loans

Flood-hit FNQ businesses to receive disaster assistance and working capital loans

Photo: QFES, via Facebook.

Farmers, small businesses and not-for-profits affected by ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper will be able to apply for disaster assistance and working capital loans, while employees and sole traders who have lost income as a direct result of the disaster will be able to receive payments for 13 weeks.

Federal Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt said the loans, funded jointly by the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, will assist with the repair and recovery of essential equipment and the loss of income.

"I can see for myself that there's been a lot of impact on farms and small businesses around this region, and they need our support," Minister Watt said at a press conference this morning.

Disaster assistance loans will be for up to $250,000 for producers and small businesses and $100,000 for not-for-profits to repair or replace damaged assets like plant and equipment, to repair premises, or to replace stock and maintain liquidity.

Essential working capital loans will be worth up to $100,000 for producers, small businesses and not-for-profits to allow for the continuation of operations, including paying wages, rents or rates, purchasing items such as fuel, fodder and water, or for the transportation of livestock and produce.

The support package also includes freight subsidies of up to $5,000 for primary producers in some of the hardest hit areas to alleviate the costs of moving stock and operating materials.

Small business loans are currently only available to applicants in the Cairns, Cassowary Coast, Cook, Douglas, Hope Vale, Mareeba, Tablelands, Wujal Wujal and Yarrabah local government areas (LGAs). The same LGAs will be eligible for not-for-profit loans with the exception of Hope Vale.

The LGAs where applicants can apply for the primary producer loans is limited to Cairns, Cassowary Coast, Cook, Douglas, Hinchinbrook, Mareeba, and Tablelands.

"Hinchinbrook Shire Council can now also access funding to help with emergency repairs to roads and bridges which will help with response and reconstruction efforts," added Minister Watt. 

"This support has also been activated for Cairns, Cassowary Coast, Cook Shire, Douglas Shire, Hope Vale, Mareeba, Tablelands, Wujal Wujal and Yarrabah in recent days."

This comes in addition to the announcement yesterday that the federal government has activated the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP) and Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA) for residents who have had their homes impacted or can’t get to work.

"I’d encourage people to hop on the myGov website to apply," the Minister said.

From 2pm AEST today, applications for the AGDRP and DRA will be open for people who live and work in the Cairns, Cassowary Coast, Cook, Douglas, Hope Vale, Mareeba, Tablelands, Wujal Wujal and Yarrabah LGAs:

  • The AGDRP is a one-off payment of $1,000 per eligible adult and $400 per eligible child who have suffered a significant loss as a result of the floods, including a severely damaged or destroyed home or a serious injury.
  • The DRA provides up to 13 weeks of federal income support to assist eligible employees or sole traders who experience a loss of income as a direct result of a major disaster.

Equivalent financial assistance is available to eligible New Zealand citizens holding ‘non-protected Special Category’ and ‘subclass 444’ visas.

"The devastation we have seen over the past few days in Far North Queensland has been horrific," Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said yesterday.

"My government stands with the people of Queensland now during the response and will continue to do so through the recovery phase of this disaster."

Nikki Boyd, Queensland's Minister for Fire and Disaster Recovery and Minister for Corrective Services, urged anyone eligible for disaster loans or other activated assistance measures to apply now, with the Queensland Community Recovery Hotline on 1800 173 349 - a number that will be available around the clock for questions on eligibility and how to apply.

"We understand the devastation of ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper and we’re acting quickly to drive recovery for communities and industry," said Minister Boyd.

"For disaster affected towns and businesses, getting reconnected and back to work provides a big step forward, which is why DRFA (Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements) support is so important."

Minister Boyd added the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) is managing 1,700 damage assessments in the region.

"We're also rotating our frontline as well, which is keeping those people who have been giving their all a reprieve. SES (State Emergency Service) has an additional 144 personnel that have been deployed into the region, and they are going into impacted areas as well," she said.

Minister Watt said both governments had been working with contractors to assist with the large clean-up task ahead.

"We face a really massive cleanup exercise here in Far North Queensland - the water, the mud, the smell, it's going to take a lot of work from a lot of people, and I've already seen lots of volunteers out there helping along," he said.

Queensland Premier Steven Miles said there were still 35 localities in the far north that remain isolated in the wake of the flooding disaster.

"Police have gained access to many of those communities and not identified any critically injured persons. That really is the miracle of this event - an event so big, and as far as we know, no loss of life," the Premier said.

"We do continue to have grave fears for the 85-year-old man who was reported missing from Degarra. Police have accessed his property but have still not been able to locate him," he clarified.

Miles also announced a $1.5 million donation from the Queensland Government to kick-start an appeal for those impacted by the disaster, to be split between five non-government organisations to assist with disaster response and recovery.

The donation will be split across five NGOs on behalf of the state government – Australian Red Cross ($350,000), The Salvation Army ($350,000), UnitingCare Queensland ($350,000), St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland ($350,000), and GIVIT ($100,000).

"All of Queensland is behind our mates in the far north as they begin to pick up the pieces," the Premier said.

“These funds will go to organisations on the ground providing hands-on support through the recovery.

“We are also working with the local governments and agencies so that people have the food, clothing, medicine and shelter they need.

“I want to thank the good Samaritans on the ground who are continuing to lend a hand, our hardworking emergency service workers and of course our volunteers."

Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) CEO Jake Ellwood emphasised it will take a long time to recover from this disaster, but 'we always see the best of Australians in the worst of times, and this will be no different'.

"The one thing though I never forget in these circumstances is that we can tend to sometimes fixate on the damaged roads and the damaged houses, but actually what matters most is people, and this has been a very traumatic event for many, many people - it came at little to no notice," he said.

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