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Is your business suffering? If so, act now! Don’t delay!

A great deal of concern has been raised by local businesses in the tourism, hospitality, and retail trades about the tremendous negative impact the fires have had on our region – not only our region, but right across the country.

Two weeks ago, a member of the Blue Mountains Regional Business Chamber, representing all Mountains chambers and businesses, attended the Prime Minister’s Small Business Recovery Forum in Canberra. Much about this meeting has been said elsewhere in the press, suffice it to say it was an historic meeting, with attendees having the ability to speak directly to the PM, the Treasurer, and Minister for Small Business. There were many attendees from around the country, however we were fortunate in being able to table our immediate concerns, both directly to Senator Michaelia Cash, the Minister for Small Business, prior to the meeting, and then in the open forum. The issues we raised were:

  • the mental wellbeing of our business owners and the support available to them;
  • clarification required from Fairwork Australia in regard to “stand down” procedures for staff due to the economic impact of the fires. (We were particularly concerned regarding the preservation of leave entitlements for staff).
  • we proposed the introduction of a training levy to entice larger companies to conduct staff training or board/executive meetings in the fire affected areas.
  • tax breaks to encourage big businesses to decentralise into rural and regional Australia, thereby encouraging remote and/or regional employment.
  • Immediate establishment of a Western Sydney Business Centre office in Katoomba (for at least 12 months) to provide on-the-ground assistance to struggling businesses.
  • consideration of payroll tax relief; and landlord rent relief to assist SME tenants.

All of these points were noted, and in fact referred back to, in support, by other speakers during the course of the meeting.

In the Prime Minister’s media release of 20 January 2020, it was pleasing to note that many of these suggestions are being implemented. Cash flow was recognised as a huge burden to overcome, and for those businesses affected by the fires, loans of up to $500,000 will be offered for businesses that have suffered significant asset loss or a significant loss of revenue. The loan would be for up to 10 years and used for the purposes of restoring or replacing damaged assets and for working capital. The loans will be available with a repayment holiday of up to two years, with no interest accruing during this period. The subsequent interest rate would be set at 50 per cent of the ten-year Commonwealth government bond rate (currently around 0.6%).

This week Blue Mountains businesses were again represented in Canberra, this time at the Business Council of Australia’s (BCA) Community Rebuilding Roundtable “BizRebuild” chaired by General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove (Retired).

The BCA consists of the top 125 companies in Australia and many were represented at the Roundtable. The key takeaways from this meeting were:

  • the BCA is committed to putting business back into the fire affected areas. It was very clearly acknowledged by Sir Peter that small business is the lifeblood of our communities, without which communities will fail.
  • BCA members want to be involved in the rebuilding process, but they need to know how they can help. Small business will be supported by big business across Australia, but those businesses affected need to let the BCA know what is needed. The best way to do this, although time-consuming, is to get online and complete the data requested.
  • The BCA want to ensure that the rebuilding work is managed and undertaken locally, by local people, supporting local communities.
  • There is clear acknowledgement that cash flow is paramount, and people need it now. They recognise the key concerns are:

Cash – Credit – Customers

Overarching all of this is a very deep concern for the mental well-being of all people affected by these fires, particularly business owners who have been affected indirectly and payment of accounts, with a lack of the usual income at this time of year, is causing major angst.

Support is available, and more is coming.

In conclusion, it is worth repeating the very poignant comments made at the meeting by Mr. Andrew Colvin, who heads up the National Disaster Recovery Agency (NDRA).

These are important words, and we ask and encourage all business owners to heed them. Act now, and do not delay.

  1. Do Not Self-assess. It is too early, and you may make a mistake. You may be too stressed to see clearly. Seek help straight away.
  2. Get online as quickly as you can because there are resources for help and support that have been expanded well beyond what previously existed.
  3. The NDRA and BCA – in order to help us – are wholly and solely reliant upon the information that they collect from us, the small business community.
  4. They will be working towards matching our needs with their capabilities and, whilst recognising that they may not have all the answers, will consider everything.
  5. “The depth and breadth of this disaster has tested our frameworks in a way that has never been tested before”. We are in very new territory.

More resources are available via the Blue Mountains Regional Business Chamber website 'General Resources to Help You'  where we have attempted to put all the resource websites together.

Alternatively if you would like to speak to one of our board members about your situation, please complete confidential request form on the 'Business Recovery' page and one of us will get back to you.

We continue to represent the interests of all Blue Mountains businesses and business chambers.

For further information contact:

Mark Barton