Fire-struck busi­nesses need help

The Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - JADE GAILBERGER

BUSH­FIRE-rav­aged busi­nesses are be­ing urged to seek grants, as new fig­ures re­veal both low ap­pli­ca­tion num­bers and that more than a quar­ter are still be­ing pro­cessed or have been knocked back.

Four months on from the Kan­ga­roo Is­land and Cudlee Creek blazes, many busi­ness own­ers are strug­gling to re­build their liveli­hoods in the midst of the COVID-19 pan­demic. Com­mu­nity lead­ers warn some are miss­ing out due to strin­gent el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria.

Small busi­ness sup­port grants of $10,000 have been sought by 223 ap­pli­cants, with 164 re­ceiv­ing them so far.

In re­sponse to com­plaints on el­i­gi­bil­ity for other schemes, the $10,000 grants were in­tro­duced in March for busi­nesses that ex­pe­ri­enced a 40 per cent drop in rev­enue over a three-month pe­riod, com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year.

Four ap­pli­ca­tions have been re­jected while 55 are still pend­ing.

Sep­a­rate small busi­ness re­cov­ery grants are worth up to $50,000. While close to 80 of those had been ap­proved as of April 24, to­talling al­most $2.5 mil­lion, 27 were re­jected and 10 are pend­ing.

Across both schemes, jointly funded by the state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments but ad­min­is­tered by a State Gov­ern­ment agency, about $1.9 mil­lion worth of ap­pli­ca­tions have been re­jected or are still be­ing pro­cessed.

Kan­ga­roo Is­land ac­coun­tant Sue Ar­lidge, who has helped more than 50 busi­nesses as they re­cover from the fires, said the up­take for small busi­ness grants was alarm­ingly low.

“In the early days the small busi­ness grant (schemes) had ap­pli­ca­tions that were dis­al­lowed that could get through today,” she said. “Those peo­ple are falling through the cracks.”

She en­cour­aged busi­nesses that had been knocked back to reap­ply.

Mayo MP Re­bekha Sharkie was also wor­ried about the low pro­por­tion of busi­nesses ap­ply­ing due to el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria.

“We haven’t had an over­whelm­ing re­sponse from busi­nesses that they have been able to ac­cess these funds,” she said. “There are 11,000 reg­is­tered busi­nesses in Mayo; granted (not) all were ... af­fected.”

The state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments last week an­nounced $1.8 mil­lion in ad­di­tional sup­port to establish a new small busi­ness hub on KI and pro­vide grant ap­pli­ca­tion sup­port.

State bush­fire re­cov­ery co­or­di­na­tor Robyn Green said sup­port was still avail­able and en­cour­aged ap­pli­ca­tions.

At least 3000 per­sonal hard­ship grants of up to $700 for fam­i­lies and $280 for adults have been is­sued. More than $3.7 mil­lion has been paid di­rectly from the South Aus­tralian Bush­fire Ap­peal Fund, and $2.7 mil­lion from the KI May­oral Fund, which has 60 ap­pli­ca­tions pend­ing.

At Wood­side, ArtWine lost about half of its vines to fire, and the re­main­der to smoke taint. Own­ers Judy and Glen Kelly wel­comed a $10,000 grant, re­ceived last week, but es­ti­mated their loss of in­come was $167,000.

They are wait­ing for the out­come of a pri­mary pro­ducer grant of up to $75,000 – yet an­other scheme – af­ter more in­for­ma­tion was re­quested.

“The em­pha­sis is on COVID and I think ev­ery­one had for­got­ten that the bush­fires ever hap­pened,” she said.

Mr Kelly said work­ing out which grants the busi­ness was el­i­gi­ble for had been dif­fi­cult.

More than 204 pri­mary pro­ducer grants to­talling more than $13.9 mil­lion have been awarded so far.

The State Gov­ern­ment said it had “worked to get as many of these grants to im­pacted small busi­nesses as quickly as pos­si­ble, and that process is con­tin­u­ing”.

Pic­ture: MIKE BUR­TON

RE­COV­ERY: ArtWine own­ers Judy and Glen Kelly are hop­ing for a pri­mary pro­ducer grant.

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