Delivering more immediate support to Australians impacted by bushfires

Media release
15 Jan 2020
Prime Minister, Minister for Families and Social Services

An extra $400 for each child that has qualified for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment in bushfire-hit towns and regions as well as more food vouchers, financial assistance and support services will help Australians affected by the ongoing bushfire disaster.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the package of more than $58 million in support for families would also help stimulate bushfire affected communities.

“I know many Australians are doing it really tough, they’ve seen their homes and livelihoods destroyed or damaged by these devastating fires,” the Prime Minister said.

“For many people right now it’s the basics that count. We need to make sure everyone has food on the table and clothes on their backs.

“We are hoping this extra support will assist tens of thousands of people affected by bushfires to get through the coming days and weeks.

“We will direct relief providers to team up with local businesses so this money can have a dual effect of helping families get back on their feet as well as boosting local economies.”

Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said the Government was also investing in financial counselling to deliver face-to-face services in affected areas including through outreach.

“As affected Australians count the personal toll of these devastating fires we want to make sure they have support to plan and rebuild their lives,” Minister Ruston said.

“On the ground financial counsellors will provide free and confidential support including assessing a person’s financial situation, identifying options and making decisions, advocating and negotiating with third parties such as banks and insurance companies and advising what other support services are out there.

“Many of the affected Australians have never relied on Government services so financial counsellors will be able to make sure people have all the information they need, particularly about the assistance for which they are eligible, so they can get back on their feet quickly.”

Boosting emergency relief in bushfire affected areas

For communities directly affected by fire, emergency relief funding will be increased by $40 million.

These extra funds can be used for food vouchers or used to pay for a broad range of basics including utility bills, clothing and petrol.

In recognition of the crisis situation, this relief will also be made available as cash payments when necessary to help cover emergency costs for people who work or live in affected areas.

The funding will be primarily administered by the Salvation Army Property Trust and the St Vincent De Paul Society who collectively provide services across all affected areas who will be working with locally based organisations to ensure access for communities in need.

The hotline numbers are:

  • Salvation Army Disasters Assistance team: 1300 662 217
  • St Vincent de Paul bushfire assistance: 13 18 12

Existing emergency relief can be accessed through local community organisations which can be found by searching ‘Financial Crisis and Material Aid – Emergency Relief’ on the DSS Grants Service Directory.

Extra support for families

The Government will deliver an extra $400 to families for each child aged under 16 that is eligible for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP). This payment is in addition to the AGDRP and is not subject to income tax.

From Monday, this additional payment will begin flowing for new applicants. Families with children who have already received the AGDRP need not re-apply, their additional payment will follow over the course of next week.

The government is providing an additional $7.9 million for the families of the nearly 20,000 children affected by bushfires and already receiving the AGDRP and this funding is uncapped to meet the needs of more families who may be eligible for the AGDRP.

Expanding Financial Counselling services

An additional $10 million will be invested in financial counselling to deliver services in affected areas including extra support for the National Debt Helpline and increased funding for locally based providers in bush fire affected areas to deliver face-to-face services including through outreach.

The National Debt Helpline, which is often the first point of contact for people experiencing financial difficulties, can be accessed on 1800 007 007 or by visiting www.ndh.org.au

The Government also supports access to safe, affordable financial products that are not available through mainstream organisations for people on low incomes.

The No Interest Loans Scheme and StepUP, a low interest loan scheme, are available through Good Shepherd Microfinance. These are an alternative to other high risk, high interest products.