Small businesses in regional Australia that have been heavily hit by lockdowns, drought, and bushfires will receive specialised Australian Government assistance to help them recover financially.
The $8.6 million Regional Small Business Support Program pilot will start in early 2022, following the success of the Drought Communities Small Business Support pilot.
Coordinator-General of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency, Shane L Stone said the program provides valuable support to small businesses, which are the backbone of regional economies.
“Regional small businesses are the social and economic lifeblood of their communities. Even during the tough times they create local jobs, support local events and make sure their neighbours and friends don’t go without,” said Mr Stone.
Through the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) initiative, the pilot offers free and independent case-managed financial counselling to qualified small businesses.
Clients engage one-on-one with RFCS counsellors and support professionals to obtain specialised financial planning and taxation assistance, as well as to develop financial and risk management skills.
This is an expansion of the initial pilot which has supported more than 1,350 regional small businesses employing approximately 3,100 people.
“The initial pilot program has been extremely well received – early feedback showing it’s not only helping regional small businesses to improve their financial wellbeing but has also provided positive flow-on effects for regional communities.
“This was compelling evidence that the pilot should continue with a new name to recognise its broader role supporting regional businesses affected by challenges other than drought, including bushfires and COVID-19,” Mr Stone said.
The 12-month extension gives certainty to businesses already part of the pilot program and allows others impacted by regional lockdowns, bushfires and drought to access the service.
Growing Victoria’s SMEs and craft businesses
Another new development is that the Andrews Labour Government is assisting small-scale and craft producers across Victoria in diversifying product lines, expanding exports, and creating new jobs.
Under Stream Three, the Small-Scale and Craft Program awards grants ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 to eligible small-scale and craft agribusinesses.
The initiative supports projects that showcase multiple producers and promote distinct visitor experiences.
As part of its Agriculture Strategy, the Labour Government is assisting small agribusinesses in growing, which will increase visitation to rural towns, generate jobs, and encourage more Victorians to shop locally.
To find out more about the Small-Scale and Craft Program visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/smallscaleandcraftprogram.
Further information is available on the National Recovery and Resilience Agency website: www.recovery.gov.au/rural-financial-counselling-service