Actor Rachel Griffiths will lead a group of high-profile Victorians in encouraging Australians to support the state as it grapples with the fallout of the bushfire crisis.
Griffiths will be joined by Dave Hughes, Andy Lee and Nick Dal Santo in encouraging the public to support bushfire-affected communities in the state’s east, as part of the state government’s Business and Sport for Bushfire Recovery program.
The AFL and its Victorian clubs, NAB, BHP, Tabcorp and Tennis Australia are among 115 organisations who will also organise stays of at least two nights in affected areas for events over the next six months and beyond.
Griffiths said she had spoken with a friend who could lose up to $400,000 worth of clothing stock after being unable to sell it in deserted stores along Victoria’s coast.
“He’s just getting people calling saying ‘mate, there’s no one here, I’m not selling your stuff’,” she told reporters.
Patronage of bushfire-affected businesses supports local communities as much as sharing photos and donating to relief efforts, Griffiths said.
“It’s active, and showing up and showing your support in a really genuine and profound way.”
The actor is passionate about the bushfire crisis, posting regularly on Instagram about the loss of wildlife and dangerous smoke levels across the state.
Victoria’s bushfires have so far burnt more than 1.5 million hectares, mainly in the state’s East Gippsland and northeast regions.
Premier Daniel Andrews says the blazes have “devastated communities”.
“With businesses taking a massive hit during what is normally their busiest time of the year – I encourage everyone to follow the lead of these organisations and visit and spend money in these bushfire-affected communities,” he said.
The state’s tourism authority, Visit Victoria, will also run marketing initiatives to promote the state’s regions.
The tourism bodies for the worst-hit regions, Tourism North East and Destination Gippsland, will also get a $200,000 grant each to assist with their immediate recovery efforts.
The grants can help pay for a dedicated staff member to work directly with local operators and promote them.
Small business to receive government help
Meanwhile, the Morrison government has announced a suite of measures to help small businesses that have suffered the impact of devastating bushfires.
The package includes grants, loans and some tax assistance for the estimated 192,000 small businesses and sole traders in the most severely affected regions.
“Getting small business back on their feet is critical,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said announcing the measures on Monday.
An overarching figure on the cost of the package has yet to be announced as the damage is still being assessed in many communities.
“This comprehensive package will make it easier for those who have suffered direct fire damage, or have been indirectly economically impacted following the bushfires, to get back on their feet,” Mr Morrison said.
Loans of up to $500,000 will be offered for businesses that have suffered significant asset loss or significant loss of revenue.
The loan would be up 10 years and used for the purposes of restoring or replacing damaged assets and for working capital.
They will be available with a repayment holiday of up to two years, with no interest accruing during this period. The subsequent interest rate would be set at 50 per cent of the ten-year Commonwealth government bond rate – currently around 0.6 per cent.
Building on the disaster recovery grants put in place by state governments, the federal government will also provide top-up grants to eligible small businesses and non-profit organisations.
This program is uncapped and means that businesses and organisations that have sustained damage as result of the fires can access up to $50,000 in tax-free, grant funding.