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Charity sector gets multi-million dollar fire relief boost

16 January 2020 at 8:29 am
Maggie Coggan
The money will go towards food, financial counselling and support services 

Maggie Coggan | 16 January 2020 at 8:29 am


Charity sector gets multi-million dollar fire relief boost
16 January 2020 at 8:29 am

The money will go towards food, financial counselling and support services 

The federal government will spend nearly $8 million doubling disaster payments for children under the age of 16, and give charities a bonus $50 million to provide immediate disaster relief for bushfire victims. 

St Vincent De Paul Society and Salvation Army Property Trust, which collectively provide services across all affected areas, will administer $40 million to bushfire affected communities, with funds to go towards food vouchers, utility bills, clothing and petrol. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the charities will also partner with community-based businesses to boost the local economy.  

“We will direct relief providers to team up with local businesses so this money can have a dual effect of helping families get back on their feet as well as boosting local economies,” Morrison said.

In a later announcement on Wednesday, Morrison told reporters in Canberra the government will also boost the disaster relief payment for children under the age of 16 from $400 to $800. 

It follows complaints by the Australian Council for Social Services that the government support for bushfire victims was inadequate. 

The current payment for adults is $1,000 and has not been increased in 14 years. An increase to the payment for adults was not included in the announcement.  

ACOSS CEO, Cassandra Goldie, welcomed the additional payment to community service groups, saying the community sector will need ongoing government support for months as people rebuild their lives. 

“On the long, hard road to recovery, the community sector will need ongoing support from the federal government to respond to the surge in need which is likely to continue for many months, as people reach out for help to rebuild their homes and lives,” Goldie said. 

But she said with the ongoing impact of the bushfire set to increase the price of living, a lift to Newstart was vital.      

“Newstart has not been increased in real terms for 25 years, while living costs have gone through the roof,” she said. 

“Again we call on the government to increase Newstart to get people through tough times and to provide needed economic stimulus, especially in regional communities struggling with high unemployment, likely to be made worse in those affected by the bushfire crisis.”   

The latest injection of funding also included $10 million for financial counselling, with extra support for the National Debt Helpline and increased funding for local face-to-face services in bushfire affected areas.   

Financial Counselling Australia CEO, Fiona Guthrie, said the service was a vital response to natural disasters in the immediate and long term. 

“We know from experience that it can take two years, and sometimes more, for people to recover from natural disasters,” Guthrie said. 

“Financial counsellors can provide the advice and support over the long term to ensure that people who are traumatised, and their communities, can recover.”

The government is also supporting safe, affordable financial products that are not available through mainstream organisations for people on low incomes.

These include the No Interest Loans Scheme and StepUP, a low interest loan scheme, which are available through Good Shepherd Microfinance. 

The funding is part of the Morrison government’s $2 billion disaster fund. $50 million for wildlife recovery and $100 million for farmers from the fund were also announced on Tuesday.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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