Fire-affected farmers urged to use free RBS assistance

Fire-affected farmers urged to use free RBS assistance

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AS thoughts turn to recovery after this summer's bushfires, Rural Business Support is encouraging affected farmers to work with a rural financial counsellor to weigh up their options and find a way forward for their business.

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AS thoughts turn to recovery after this summer's bushfires, Rural Business Support is encouraging affected farmers to work with a rural financial counsellor to weigh up their options and find a way forward for their business.

RBS chief executive officer Brett Smith said the organisation's rural financial counsellors could assist eligible rural businesses to develop and implement plans to recover.

"Through our delivery of the Rural Financial Counselling Service, RBS was actively involved in supporting people to work through the decisions that had to be made following the Sampson Flat and Pinery fires," he said.

"Learnings from these experiences are very much shaping how we're supporting people now. We're in close, regular communication with the agencies charged with leading the initial recovery efforts.

"Now that people's mindsets are starting to shift from dealing with their immediate response needs, to business cashflow and how they're going to meet their financial obligations, this is where RBS can help to lighten their load.

"Through the experienced and empathetic support of our counsellors, our free, independent and confidential service can help them navigate the road to recovery."

Rural financial counsellors can provide support with:

  • Preparing for talks with insurance companies, banks and lenders
  • Preparing cash flow forecasts to meet financial obligations
  • Accessing other professional services
  • Developing and implementing plans to return to 'normal' operations

Mr Smith said it could be difficult for people to think clearly and make big decisions with any certainty or confidence after such traumatic events.

"This is when it can be helpful for farmers and growers to get their issues out on the table and make informed decisions with the support of another set of eyes," he said.

"Our rural financial counsellors can help people to develop a plan for the next 12 to 24 months and discuss how to manage financially as they recover and rebuild.

"In terms of cash flow and recovery, planning will be critical in making decisions and talking with financers. Part of this could be asking questions of lenders about what assistance they can offer. Perhaps there can be an interest-only option around finance structures?"

Mr Smith said RBS had up-to-date information on assistance from government and aid organisations around income support and loan options that people may be eligible for.

"Everyone is entitled to an initial appointment with a rural financial counsellor to discuss and assess their situation and eligibility for RFCS and financial assistance options," he said.

"When they're ready to, we'd encourage farmers and growers to call us to take that significant first step along what will be a long road to recovery, but one they don't need to travel alone."

According to RBS, any concerns about the tax implications associated with donated monies or insurance payments should be raised with an accountant or the Australian Taxation Office.

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