Fire-struck businesses need help
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”.
RECOVERY: ArtWine owners Judy and Glen Kelly are hoping for a primary producer grant.