Bushfire affected farmers and growers urged to utilise free RBS assistance

As the initial shock and distress caused by this summer’s devastating bushfires turns to thoughts of recovery, Rural Business Support (RBS) is encouraging farmers and growers to work with a rural financial counsellor to weigh up their options and find a way forward for their business.

RBS CEO Brett Smith says the organisation’s rural financial counsellors can assist eligible rural businesses to develop and implement plans to recover.

“Through our delivery of the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS), RBS was actively involved in supporting people to work through the decisions that had to be made following the Sampson Flat and Pinery fires,” Brett said.

“Learnings from these experiences are very much shaping how we’re supporting people now. We’re also in close, regular communication with the agencies charged with leading the initial recovery efforts.

“Now that people’s mindsets are starting to shift from dealing with their immediate response needs, to business cashflow and how they’re going to meet their financial obligations, this is where RBS can help to lighten their load.

“Through the experienced and empathic support of our counsellors, our free, independent and confidential service can help them navigate the road to recovery.”

Rural financial counsellors can provide support with:

  • Preparing for talks with insurance companies, banks and lenders
  • Preparing cash flow forecasts to meet financial obligations
  • Accessing other professional services
  • Developing and implementing plans to return to ‘normal’ operations

Brett said it could be difficult for people to think clearly and make big decisions with any certainty or confidence after such a traumatic event.

“This is when it can be helpful for farmers and growers to get their issues out on the table and make informed decisions with the support of another set of eyes,” he said.

“Our rural financial counsellors can help people to develop a plan for the next 12 to 24 months and discuss how to manage financially as they recover and rebuild.

“In terms of cash flow and recovery, planning will be critical in making decisions and talking with financers. Part of this could be asking questions of lenders about what assistance they can offer. Perhaps there can be an interest-only option around finance structures?”

Brett says that RBS also has up-to-date information on assistance from government and aid organisations around income support and loan options that people may be eligible for.

“Everyone is entitled to an initial appointment with a rural financial counsellor to discuss and assess their situation and eligibility for RFCS and financial assistance options.

“When they’re ready to, we’d encourage farmers and growers to call us to take that significant first step along what will be a long road to recovery, but one that they don’t need to travel alone.”

Any concerns about the tax implications with donated monies or insurance payments should be raised with an accountant or the Australian Taxation Office.

To make a time to talk with a Rural Financial Counsellor please call Rural Business Support on 1800 836 211. Download our Bushfire Assistance Fact Sheet.