A story reflecting life in September 2020
For many small business owners, the Black Summer bushfires have had a profound impact. And it is not just those businesses directly affected by the fires. Many others have suffered indirectly through loss of trade for a variety of reasons including road closures and a downturn in tourism.
As part of helping these businesses recover, the Australian Government established the Small Business Bushfire Financial Counselling Support Line.
Most small businesses seeking assistance from the Support Line are micro-small businesses, 87 per cent of which have five or fewer employees (including 44 per cent that have no employees).
One such small business owner is Joe. He was referred to the Support Line through a bushfires recovery centre. Joe and his business partner had a small business supplying and installing water tanks. Following the fires, they had been struggling to re-establish the business and realised they needed help to recover and maintain the business.
Joe was finding it particularly difficult as he had lost equipment and income, and many areas impacted by the fires needed decontamination before water tanks could be installed. He was struggling with his mental health and needed help.
Joe and his wife phoned the Support Line. The Financial Counsellor shared information on business help available to people impacted by the Black Summer bushfires and how to access it, including concessional loans, small business grants and various tax relief options.
During the discussion, Joe talked about his loss of confidence and mental struggles. The Financial Counsellor identified that Joe may benefit from mental health support and was able to refer Joe to mental health services including ten free counselling sessions.
The Small Business Bushfire Financial Counselling Support Line is on 1800 413 828. Specialist small business financial counsellors provide free, confidential advice to small business owners and sole traders in financial difficulty as well as advice on bushfire assistance they may be able to access.
The Rural Financial Counselling Service is on 1800 686 175. It provides free, confidential financial counselling to farmers, foresters, fishers and small related businesses, who are suffering financial hardship.
Free mental health counselling sessions - if you live in an area impacted by the Black Summer bushfires, you can access up to 10 free counselling sessions. The counselling sessions are provided by local services arranged through the Primary Health Network (PHN) in your area, and are completely confidential. For more information about how to access the free counselling in your area, see the list of PHNs providing free counselling with links to more details.