National relief needed for flood-hit SMEs

As the human toll of the Queensland floods rises with four people dead and thousands evacuated, spare a thought for those businesses which are at risk of going under as the flood levels rise.

It may be business but this is personal as well, particularly when small businesses are at issue.

While there is help at hand for most individuals through the Commonwealth’s Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP), a one-off payment of $1,000 per eligible adult and $400 per eligible child over the age of 16, there is no equivalent immediate relief for businesses.

Individuals can also access personal hardship and distress payments under Category A of the joint Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).

But the risk is that relief for small and medium businesses can slip through the cracks.

There is a framework that is meant to cater for small business under Category B of the NDRRA, but businesses themselves are limited to assistance in the form of further debt – albeit at a concessional interest rate – hard-to-come-by grants and the burdens of bureaucracy within government departments.

While the major banks like the National Australia Bank have announced a range of relief measures for personal customers – such as suspending home and personal loan repayments for up to three months, waiving fees and costs for withdrawing term deposits early, waiving home loan and personal loan application fees and credit card and personal loan relief where appropriate – the detail on what is available for businesses is more light on.

A spokesperson for the NAB told SmartCompany “all impacted business customers are eligible for support and are encouraged to call their banker or NAB Care to discuss their individual circumstances.”

The Queensland floods only bring into sharper relief the need for a national approach to small business disaster assistance.

Why can’t small and medium size businesses have access to one-off, non-means tested assistance similar to that for individuals?

Each business closed by the floods is a person’s livelihood being swept away.

It may be business but, at times like these, it’s also very personal.

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