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Another $190 million for drought relief, but more needed

Another $190 million for drought relief, but more needed

The federal government has announced a new $190 million support package to provide immediate relief for farmers suffering through one of the worst droughts in living memory.

The new measures include two cash payments for farmers worth up to $12,000 a year as part of the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) scheme.

Couples will receive up to an additional $12,000 and single households will receive up to $7,200 in two lump sum payments on 1 September 2018 and 1 March 2019. 

Households eligible for the FHA receive a fortnightly payment totalling around $16,000 a year, so these additional grants bring the total assistance available for farming families up to $28,000 a year.

The federal government has also increased the net asset threshold cap from $2.6 million to $5 million, which means thousands more farmers will be able to access the FHA.

The announcements bring the total federal support provided to households and communities in drought to $576 million.

Federal Member for Calare, Andrew Gee said the $190 million package of immediate relief announced on Sunday would be welcomed by the farming families doing it tough right across the Central West.

“In the Australian Parliament I’ve been calling for drought relief to be ramped up as conditions worsened and I’m very glad that the call has been answered,” Mr Gee said.

But he expects that much more assistance will be needed before this drought is over.

“I was out visiting drought affected farmers across our region last week and I’ve taken a range of further measures and suggestions back to the government in Canberra, because we’re going to need more support as the weather heats up and the outlook on the land continues to worsen.”

“This drought is getting uglier by the day and last week farmers told me it’s so bad that it’s now beyond anything they have experienced. Many are in uncharted territory.

“Ramping up drought relief is vitally important. We’re going to need more before this thing is through and I’ll continue to push to get it.

Additional measures announced on Sunday also include:

• An extra $5 million for the Rural Financial Counselling Service to provide additional support for farmers.

• $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, recognising 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.

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