VICTORIA’S State Government has announced a $14.4 million bushfire recovery support program for fire-affected communities, including immediate tax relief for residents and businesses.
The support program will provide dedicated support coordinators to help affected families access the services and information they need to recover and start rebuilding their lives.
Premier Daniel Andrews and Bushfire Recovery Victoria chairman Ken Lay today announced the $14.4 million Victorian Bushfires Case Support Program will immediately be available for people in fire-affected areas in Gippsland and north-east Victoria.
Mr Andrews with Mr Lay at Corryong today, also said businesses, families, and individuals whose properties have been destroyed or substantially damaged by bushfires will receive ex-gratia relief for their 2020 land tax assessment. Land tax will be also be waived on eligible properties being used to provide free accommodation for people who need it.
This immediate tax relief follows the declaration of a State of Disaster and is similar to the assistance provided by the Victorian Government to communities following the February 2009 fires.
For people who decide not to rebuild in their local community, the government will provide up to $55,000 in stamp duty relief if they buy a home elsewhere. For people who lost motor vehicles due to bushfires, they can receive up to $2100 in ex-gratia relief from the duty on up to two replacement vehicles.
The State Revenue Office has suspended land tax assessments in affected areas, and will continue to support businesses in fire-affected areas. Councils will be given $7.3 million to put in place dedicated local teams to coordinate and drive bushfire recovery efforts.
Each council will set up a Bushfire Recovery Directorate for twelve months to oversee bushfire recovery, focusing on rebuilding and planning, economic development, support for the farming and primary production sectors, and the ongoing well-being of community members.
The Government has also approved a temporary three-month increase in allowances for mayors and councillors in the Alpine, Towong and East Gippsland Shires. This reflects the significant additional demands and acute pressures on mayors and councillors during this time and is based on the experience of the February 2009 fires.
M Andrews said the government would take its lead from local communities and councils to provide the support they need to recover and rebuild.
Treasurer Tim Pallas said the last thing people need to worry about when they are rebuilding after bushfires is the next tax bill coming in.
“These measures will support local businesses and help get local residents back on their feet.”
Mr Lay said he would continue to visit communities devastated by bushfires to hear their concerns first hand and to make sure BRV responded with practical measures that best support their recovery.
Support co-ordinators to help with red tape
The support coordinators will be a single point of contact for those who need it, working with local residents to link them directly with vital support – such as information and advice, mental health support or financial counselling.
They will also help with practical things like filling out paperwork, accessing grants and financial claims, and navigating all the services available through the local council, state and commonwealth governments.
The recovery support program also includes support for people who may have been impacted by the bushfires in these areas, but live in other parts of Victoria. There is no charge for the services provided by this program, which is funded by the Victorian Government in partnership with Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.
This work will be supported and coordinated by Bushfire Recovery Victoria, with Mr Lay starting to visit bushfire-affected communities this week now that the immediate fire threat has passed. BRV is a permanent dedicated agency that will work with communities to help them rebuild and recover.
Services will be delivered by Windermere and Gippsland Lakes Community Health in Gippsland, Gateway Health in Northern Victoria, and cohealth in other parts of the state. Windermere is also providing a statewide contact, advice and information service.
Culturally appropriate services will also be offered by local Aboriginal community Controlled Agencies to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians needing support.
Affected Victorians can access a support coordinator by contacting their local council, visiting a recovery centre or calling 1800 560 760. Information about recovery centre locations and opening hours can be found at emergency.vic.gov.au
“Recovering from these devastating bushfires will take time, but having a dedicated person helping those who need it most will – at the very least – make that process a little easier.”
Mr Lay urged people who are “doing it tough” to not try to soldier on their own.
“Reach out to these case workers and professionals so you and your loved ones get the help you need.”
Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers Luke Donnellan said there are many families who have lost everything.
“The last thing they need is to be calling and coordinating different services – these case workers will ensure that doesn’t have to happen.”