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Media release: support measures for fire-affected businesses

COSBOA is pleased with the additional support measures for small businesses affected by the bushfires as announced by the Prime Minister today.

Peter Strong, CEO of COSBOA, stated today “We didn’t get all we wanted but this response is comprehensive and sends the right signal to communities about being supported, without putting the wider national economy in peril. This disaster is so huge and sobering that there are going to be some business casualties no matter what is done by government”.

“We particularly welcome the extension of the Disaster Relief Grants for small businesses affected by the fires. We asked for grants of $20,000 for affected businesses but the government has gone further than that by announcing grants of $50,000, which is great”.

This disaster impacts so many regions and communities that it is difficult to really know what the near-term economic impact of these fires will be on local economies and the wider national economy. Because of this, today’s announcement must not be the end of support for Australian small businesses affected by the bushfires of recent months and the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Senator Cash, the Small Business Minister have stated that this is just the beginning and other measures will be introduced as needed.

There may well be a need for further measures to support the medium term recovery process once the initial shock is over. These measures could be included in the next Federal Government budget and might include:

Increasing the instant tax write off for businesses affected from $30k to $100k for affected businesses;

Extending the grants to businesses indirectly affected;

Providing vouchers for businesses to use with local bookkeepers and accountants.

Small business owners remain very concerned for the welfare of their staff and, at some point, we are going to have to sit down and talk with the Government about what can be done to minimise the loss of employment. After all, many small business owners treat their staff as their own family and are aware that many of their employees have lost their homes and livelihoods too. But resolving this particular issue is complex and will require careful consideration over coming weeks. COSBOA notes the excellent initiatives of the Business Council of Australia in confronting the issues facing small business people and their employees.

We also need to remember that there are communities that are still at risk of bushfire and/or are cutoff from the wider community in terms of road access.

In the meantime, we must ensure that the small business benefits outlined in these announcements are delivered where they are needed most – and quickly. There is a need for improvement in the on-the-ground communications with small businesses by all government organisations. We also need insurance companies to quickly clarify what is and is not covered under business insurance policies.

Australian small business owners are tenacious and many will recover. But this disaster is unprecedented and so small business owners cannot do it alone. The assistance announced today is therefore very welcome and COSBOA will continue to work with the Morrison Government to make sure that government assistance in the months and years ahead is responsive to the changing needs of small businesses in local regions as they move from simply reopening their doors to recovering lost revenues. Well done.



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