Explained: The support available for SMEs affected by NSW flooding

nsw flooding

AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

A natural disaster has been declared in 23 local government areas as Greater Sydney struggles through another day of torrential rain from a dangerous east coast low that has flooded businesses, homes and schools in the region.

More than 200mm of rain was recorded in parts of Greater Sydney overnight, the Bureau of Meteorology said, while the NSW State Emergency Service received 500 calls for help.

For business owners who have been forced to ease trading or have suffered catastrophic damage to their premises, there are several opportunities for financial help from the state and federal governments, as well as banks and telcos.

This article will be updated as more information is made available.

Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA)

Declaring a natural disaster means residents in affected Sydney and NSW coastal areas who had homes or belongings damaged by flooding will get immediate access to financial assistance as part of the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).

“Overnight the Albanese Govt, along with the NSW Govt, activated disaster funding to provide quick financial support to those impacted by #NSWFloods,” Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt tweeted.

The LGAs that can apply (at the moment) are Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Camden, Canterbury Bankstown, Campbelltown, Central Coast, Cessnock, Fairfield, Georges River, Hawkesbury, Hornsby, Kiama, Lithgow, Liverpool, Northern Beaches, Penrith, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Sutherland, The Hills, Wingecarribee, Wollondilly, and Wollongong. This list may be expanded as the wild weather evolves.

“Today’s announcement will ensure immediate assistance is available to impacted communities, including assistance for people who have lost or had damage to their homes,” NSW Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said.

“While we are still very much in the emergency response phase of this developing weather event, as waters recede we will work with communities to assess longer term recovery needs and ensure appropriate long-term support is provided.”

The government has also announced it will offer concessional interest rate loans to small businesses and organisations, and freight subsidies for local producers. Visit the NSW Rural Assistance Authority to apply.

Speaking on ABC News Breakfast, Watt said “individuals, farmers, small businesses, councils, [and] sporting groups” would all be eligible for the disaster support payments.

“That is the beginning of the process in terms of disaster payments. [They] are uncapped payments, they are demand-driven and they will be available for anyone who qualifies.”

For more information about the DRFA funding available, call Service NSW on 137 788.

CommBank Emergency Assistance

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has activated its Emergency Assistance scheme for customers and businesses in flood-affected areas in NSW, urging people to get in touch with the bank so it can tailor relief to the situation.

It could include customising payment arrangements for home loans, credit cards and personal loans, waiving fees and charges, temporary overdrafts, additional loans or emergency credit limit increases, waiving fees and notice periods for early access to term deposits.

Specifically for business, CBA listed possible options including customising payments for business loans, loan restructuring for business customers and existing loans, and waiving fees for temporary and damaged merchant EFTPOS terminals, as well as support with merchant terminal rental fees.

“We know some areas have been impacted by flooding earlier this year and it’s a distressing time for these communities to experience this multiple times,” CBA’s executive general manager, everyday banking Kate Crous said.

“Dangerous conditions like this can cause a lot of concern and we want to alleviate some of that worry by offering a range of support measures to impacted customers.”

For more information about CBA’s Emergency Assistance scheme, click here.

Westpac’s flood support fund

Westpac launched a $2 million flood support fund after the February-March flooding disaster in northern NSW and southeast Queensland which has already helped more than 550 small business customers.

This time around the fund can assist eligible small business customers on urgent repairs and expenses with a $3000 grant.

Westpac Group managing director for cash and transactional banking Mandy Rutherford urged those affected by July’s flood disaster to pick up the phone to “talk through the options” available.

“With many evacuation orders in place, safety must be the absolute priority,” she said.

“When the time is right to seek assistance, we want our customers to know we’re here to help.”

For more information about Westpac’s flood support fund, click here.

ANZ’s relief package measures

ANZ customers can contact the bank to discuss relief package measures including short-term payment relief on home loans, credit cards, personal loans and some business loans, waiving fees for restructuring business loans, and waiving fees for accessing term deposits early.

“These floods have already forced tens of thousands out of their homes and businesses,” ANZ general manager NSW Michael Wake said.

“As the rain eases and the water subsides, we encourage customers to get in contact to see how ANZ can help them build and recover.”

For more information about ANZ’s relief package measures, click here.

Bankwest’s Emergency Assistance

Bankwest has activated Emergency Assistance to flood-affected areas in Sydney, the Hunter, Illawarra and South Coast regions in NSW.

“Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by the major flooding in communities across NSW and we are here to help,” a statement from the bank reads.

“We understand each customer will have different needs and we encourage those affected to contact us to discuss their individual circumstances.”

The statement added that “special arrangements” are in place to provide support to Bankwest customers.

For more information on Bankwest’s Emergency Assistance, click here.

Great Southern Bank’s support for customers

Great Southern Bank is urging customers to contact its team to discuss flood disaster assistance including suspending repayments on loans or credit cards, waiving late fees on home and personal loan repayments, waiving break costs for term deposits, and waiving fees for replacement credit cards.

For more information on Great Southern Bank’s support for customers, click here.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank financial relief

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank customers in flood-affected areas in NSW can access the bank’s Assistance Package.

“We are offering Bendigo Bank home loan, business loan and agribusiness loan customers impacted by the floods a range of relief measures including loan repayment deferrals of up to three months,” chief customer officer consumer banking Richard Fennell said.

“The package also includes discounted interest rates, fee waivers and other concessions.”

The bank’s Community Enterprise Foundation has already raised $713,415 since February-March’s flood disaster, with $53,000 put back into the community, and it remains open for donations.

For more information on Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s relief package, click here.

Telstra’s disaster assistance

If you are a Telstra Personal or Small Business customer with an upfront mobile plan or another post-paid plan in a flood-affected area, you could be eligible for a credit towards the cost of your service if you have been without service for part or all of the month.

You can apply for Telstra’s disaster assistance using this form.

Optus’s disaster assistance

Optus offers concessions for financial hardship including natural disasters, with options like rejigging your current plan, reviewing your services, and waiving late payments of granting a temporary hold so you don’t have to pay for your service immediately.

For more information about Optus’ financial support, click here.

Know more? Email eelsworthy@smartcompany.com.au

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