More than 3000 applications for assistance under the Farm Household Allowance scheme have been received across Australia since the income support measure began on July 1.
Federal minister for Human Services Marise Payne said the large volume of applications received in the scheme’s first two months demonstrated the need for support that existed in drought affected areas of rural Australia.
Before the Coalition Government’s change to the scheme on 5 March, there were only 459 households receiving income support Australia-wide, via the previous government’s old Transitional Farm Family Payment Scheme, Minister Payne said.
Minister Payne and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce are encouraging all farmers experiencing hardship to test their eligibility for assistance measures that include business as well as individual support.
Available support for farmers and farm businesses comprises a range of measures, including concessional loans, greater access to income support, emergency water infrastructure, pest animal management and social and mental health services.
Since the drought-specific loans were introduced in June this year, 89 applications had now been received. 28 had been approved so far, with $15 million in funding already committed, according to Minister Joyce.
“I want to encourage farm businesses out there not to self assess their eligibility for assistance but to talk to an expert, like a Rural Financial Counsellor or a Department of Human Services service officer via the Farmer Assistance Hotline (132 316), to see if they’re eligible,” Minister Joyce said.
Minister Payne said the government changed the eligibility settings in March this year to better recognise the unique circumstances of farmers, whose farm assets had previously precluded them from welfare payments.
“We lifted the asset cap for farmers by over $1 million, resulting in four times the number of farm families accessing this crucial assistance,” Minister Payne said.
“There is clearly a need out there to help farming families who are doing it tough keep food on the table until they are able to get back on their feet.
“The Australian Government is providing this assistance to farm families to help them deal with immediate financial pressures and, for those affected by drought conditions, improve their capacity to recover when the current drought breaks.
“I am pleased that the Australian Government has been able to provide support to farmers despite an extremely tight budget situation.
“The Farm Household Allowance is a demand-driven program so no one who is eligible and applies will miss out on support. Eligibility is based on individual circumstances, does not require a drought declaration, and recognises the unique circumstances of farmers,” Minister Payne said.
As well as the increased range of assistance measures available, the government has also increased the on-the-ground support available to help farmers access this assistance. This includes Rural Financial Counsellors, Farm Household Case Officers, Drought Coordinators and the Department of Human Services’ Mobile Office.
Assistance measures include:
- Drought Concessional Loans Scheme: $280 million
- Farm Finance Concessional Loans Scheme: $400 million
- Farm Household Allowance: uncapped
- Emergency water infrastructure: $22 million
- Pest animal management: $10 million
- Social and community support: $10.7 million
Source: Federal Agriculture Minister and Federal Human Services Minister. For information on how to claim the income support measure visit humanservices.gov.au/rural or call the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316. For more information on the concessional loan schemes visit daff.gov.au/assistance.