RBS expands support for non-primary production small businesses to help clear a way forward from pandemic

Rural Business Support (RBS) will further broaden its financial counselling services across South Australia and the Northern Territory to assist eligible main street businesses in rural communities affected by COVID-19, the organisation has announced today (10 June 2020).

The recruitment of two new RBS financial counsellors and a support worker is the result of additional Australian Government funding allocated for RBS through the Regional Recovery Small Business Support Program. RBS is one of 12 providers of Rural Financial Counselling Services (RFCS) nationally to be included in the $4.7 million program.

In the past six months as the financial fallout from drought and the Black Summer bushfires has continued to challenge rural communities, RBS has expanded its business remit to work with small businesses beyond farm gates. As well as a team of rural financial counsellors currently supporting more than 600 farming families, the organisation now has six specialist financial counsellors from banking and business backgrounds who are working with eligible small business owners outside of primary production.

The Small Business Financial Counselling program is modelled on the successful RFCS, which has been supporting farmers and rural-related businesses for more than 30 years. The service is free, independent and confidential.

The RBS Small Business Team covers Kangaroo Island (Darren Keenan), Eyre Peninsula (Julie Wynne), the Mid and Upper North (Matt Petherick), Mallee and Riverland (Erica McAvaney), Adelaide Hills (Cheree Reichl) and drought affected areas in NT (Peter Cottle).

Today’s announcement of extra help for main street businesses navigating their way through the pandemic will see the RBS Small Business Team grow to nine.

RBS CEO Brett Smith says the not-for-profit organisation welcomes the opportunity to further expand and help more small business owners feeling the impact of drought, or bushfires, and now the COVID-19 downturn.

“It’s certainly been a year to remember for all the wrong reasons for many small business owners, but RBS wants to reassure our regional and rural communities that help is available,” Mr Smith said. “Our financial counsellors can be another set of eyes to help business owners take a clearer look at their situation and find a way forward.

“Perhaps we can help them to explore financial assistance that they didn’t realise they could access, or support them with conversations with banks about easing lending terms until income levels improve? Maybe a small business qualifies for a loan through the Regional Investment Corporation, or they’re looking for some assistance with a business transfer or exit plan. These are just some of the ways we can help small business owners through what might feel like a difficult decision-making process at the moment.

“It can be challenging to ask for help, but this is where our experienced team can throw around some suggestions and perhaps provide a bit of clarity during what may otherwise seem a pretty overwhelming time.”

The RBS Small Business team can help eligible small business owners (with 19 or fewer employees) to:

• Consider different options to manage financial issues
• Develop budgets and cash flows
• Negotiate with creditors
• Access dispute resolution services
• Connect with broader professional advice and support
• Apply for government and community grants, programs or schemes

The Regional Recovery Small Business Support Program and the Drought Communities Small Business Program includes a Professional Services Fund, which can enable approved clients access to specialist third-party advice beyond the scope of financial counselling services, such as financial planning and specialist taxation and accounting advice. To find out more please speak with one of the RBS Small Business team by calling 1800 836 211.

Supported by the Australian Government and Governments of South Australia and the Northern Territory, Rural Business Support is currently supporting more than 600 rural business owners across SA and NT. To be connected with one of the RBS team call 1800 836 211.