Individuals, families, farms and communities in Inverell Shire can access a range of national, state and local drought support services, and the council is encouraging locals to make the most of them.
“The drought has hit us hard and some people were able to prepare well to get through this drought, but others in our community are doing it particularly tough,” said Inverell Shire Council mayor Paul Harmon.
“My message to them is we are in this together and there is support available.”
The Australian Government provides financial assistance and advice, funding for children’s school fees, health and wellbeing services, tax and financial incentives, water and environment initiatives and support for communities.
Farm Household Allowance (FHA) provides up to four years of support to eligible farming families experiencing financial hardship. The allowance, which is paid fortnightly and totals around $16,000 a year, is designed to help people meet basic household needs.
An FHA supplement lump-sum payment of up to $7,200 for single farmers and $12,000 for farming couples is available in two installments to eligible farmers receiving FHA between 1 September 2018 and 1 June 2019. To be eligible for the first payment of up to $3,600 for singles or $6,000 for couples, farmers must lodge their FHA application form by 1 December.
“The Rural Financial Counselling Service can help you apply for FHA and develop an action plan to get on top of your finances,” said Cr Harmon.
“Get in contact with our local Rural Financial Counsellor Geoff Mill or call 1800 686 175 to book an appointment.”
Eligible parents and carers in rural and remote areas can access funding and support for education and childcare to take some of the pressure off. The Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme offers a boarding allowance or distance education support and second home allowance, depending on your circumstances.
“There’s also support for families with younger children. The In Home Care program helps parents in rural and remote areas to balance their working responsibilities with flexible care options,” Cr Harmon added.
Farming businesses can access help to manage their business operations now and into the future.
“I encourage primary producers to investigate low-interest loan options, insurance rebates, tax and depreciation options and water and environment incentives to better prepare their businesses for future challenges, including droughts.”
The Australian Taxation Office has a range of support options for individuals and businesses experiencing drought, including payment plans, more time to lodge and pay tax bills and penalty waivers. Call the ATO on 1800 806 218 for tailored assistance.
Many banks are offering assistance to their drought-affected customers, including deferral of loan payments, waiving of fees and loan restructuring. Contact your bank to seek advice and to discuss options.
The effects of the drought are hurting our broader community, with businesses also feeling the pinch as people spend less in town.
Through the Australian Government’s Drought Communities Programme our Shire will be tapping into $1 million of grant funding to meet our community’s needs.
“We plan to use this funding to energise our rural communities and keep local tradies and suppliers busy, with dollars injected in to local businesses,” said Cr Harmon.
“The people in our community are resilient, but drought is challenging and it can take its toll on everyone’s health and wellbeing.”
“People feeling the pressure need to reach out and talk with someone. Your GP can connect you to a range of services, including telehealth services that allow you to talk to trained professionals via Skype from the privacy of your home. There are other great online and phone services too, like Head to Health and Lifeline.”
People in crisis can call Lifeline’s 24 hour support line on 13 11 14.
Charities and community organisations are providing much needed support to rural communities. Contact a local organisation like the Country Women’s Association or the Salvation Army to access assistance for basic needs.
For more information and to apply for Australian Government drought assistance click here or call 1800 900 090.
To access state and local drought support visit the NSW government’s DroughtHub or call Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593.
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