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Coalition Government announces $190 million package for immediate drought relief

MEMBER for Parkes Mark Coulton on Sunday hosted the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud at a farm near Trangie in Central West New South Wales to announce a $190 million package for immediate drought relief.

In addition, the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) will include two lump sum supplementary payments worth up to $12,000 a year and the FHA assets tests will be changed to allow thousands more farmers to access support.

Farming families across the Parkes electorate will receive immediate additional financial support to help them and their communities during the current devastating drought.

Mr Coulton said the new $190 million package of immediate relief will be welcomed by the farming families doing it tough right across the Parkes electorate.

“The Coalition Government has announced two lump sum supplementary payments to the FHA. Farming families will now receive up to a total of $28,000 a year in assistance following a boost of up to $12,000 per annum to FHA for eligible households,” Mr Coulton said.

“The net asset threshold cap for the FHA has now been increased from $2.6 million to $5 million, meaning more farming families will be able to access the FHA.

Mark Coulton at Trangie on Sunday, announcing a $190 million package for immediate drought relief.

“I have no doubt this will be a much-welcome boost for farmers across my electorate currently feeling the devastating impacts of the drought.

“I would encourage any farmer in need of financial assistance during this tough time to contact the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS), which helps guide farmers through the process of finding and applying for the financial assistance available to them.”

Mr Coulton noted that it is critical farmers do not self-assess, but instead seek support from the RFCS.

“Extra FHA payments will help farming families to pay their bills and get their kids to school, flowing right through to small businesses across my electorate.”

Today’s announcements bring the total support provided by the Coalition to households and communities in drought to $576 million, with more to come in coming weeks.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said raising the net assets cap for access to the FHA to $5 million will help farmers who have little cash flow.

“Owning expensive farm equipment doesn’t pay the bills,” Mr Littleproud said.

“These threshold changes mean an additional 8000 farmers could become eligible for FHA support.”

Additional measures announced include:

An extra $5 million in the RFCS, which will provide additional support for farmers – particularly those applying for the FHA for the first time.

$15 million to help the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal with small grants for not-for-profit community groups for locally driven targeted support.

$11.4 million in mental health support initiatives including:

Additional funding for Primary Health Networks in drought affected areas to cope with increased demand.

Those accessing counselling via Skype will no longer have their first appointment in person. This recognises the long distances and the cost of travel in money and time for rural people.

An Empowering Communities program that allows local communities to tailor local mental health responses to their needs. Eligible communities can apply for funds up to $1 million for community-led initiatives that improve mental health and community resilience.

Funding will be provided to ReachOUT to go out into drought affected communities and raise awareness of their youth and children’s counselling services group.

Fast facts:

Households eligible for the Farm Household Allowance – a fortnightly payment totalling around $16,000 a year to help farming families in tough times – will receive two additional lump sum payments on 1 September 2018 and 1 March 2019. Couples will receive up to an additional $12,000 and single households will receive up to $7,200.

The change will apply for the remainder of the current financial year, with the review of FHA due back early in 2019 to provide further guidance on this important issue.

Today’s announcements bring the total support provided by the Coalition Government to households and communities during the current drought to $576 million with more to come. This figure is in addition to the concessional drought loans available to farm businesses through the Regional Investment Corporation and there is more to come.

Media Release: August 5, 2018