$3000 drought payment still not available

$3000 drought payment still not available


Farm households left waiting for urgent assistance while government searches for answers.


More than a month after Prime Minister Scott Morrison raised the hopes of the hardest drought-hit families, the promised $3000 support payment is still not available.

Mr Morrison jetted back from a trip to the US and flew into Dalby, Queensland on September 27 to announce a fresh round of drought support including $33.42 million to resume the Drought Community Support Initiative, to provide up to $3000 to eligible farming households.

The program is intended to provide immediate financial assistance to enable those most in need to buy food and essentials at local stores.

But the Infrastructure Department, which is responsible for delivering the program, cannot specify a date when the funding will flow, only saying the money is "expected to flow shortly".

Farmers have been told the funds would be available through the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul Society. However, little information about how to apply is available in either website.

A media release dated October 22 on the St Vincent de Paul website said recruitment was underway for a call centre to run the project while a notice on the Salvation Army website says "the commencement date of this program will be announced in the near future".

Chris Hietbrink runs the The Hub neighbourhood centre at Guyra, where the community is struggling through an extremely tough run of seasons.

"$3000 dollars is just a drop in the ocean for people here, but it will relieve some stress," Ms Hietbrink said.

"It will only be a one-off payment but people are hanging out for it. They have it earmarked for fuel or fuel, they won't be able to put it aside for Christmas."

Foodbank NSW chief executive Gerry Andersen said many in rural NSW were in "desperate" need of help obtaining daily essentials, including food.

"There is an urgent need right now on the ground. We are getting more and more calls for our food hampers," Mr Andersen said.

Mr Andersen said any funding for rural people was welcome, but stressed there was a pressing need to help agricultural workers who may not be eligible for farmer-target assistance.

"We are giving supplies to people who just don't have any moeny to spend, and there are plenty who won't get the $3000, and they might not even qualify for government help," he said.

"We talk about rural communities at Foodbank, that includes all the rural workers and the farmers. But some people are definitely getting overlooked."

Foodbank Australia chief executive Brianna Casey said money for food was in dire need in the bush, and uncertainty around funding programs was a particular risk to mental health.

"At Foodbank we're the canary in the coal mine in terms of identifying families in trouble and there are many that can no longer support themselves," Ms Casey said.

"We know there are families having to choose between feeding livestock and themselves, or choosing between putting petrol in the car to get to school and food.

"There is a direct connection between food insecurity and mental health and well-being. Adding uncertainty to these families when they are already vulnerable will make things incredibly difficult in the months ahead."

Ms Casey said the drought had dried up the donations from farmers that they typically rely on to help people across the country.

"There is an unprecedented demand for help, even beyond country areas and we have seen a steep decline in agricultural produce donations," she said.

"I'm concerned that coming into what is forecast to be a very tough summer, with an overlay of more natural disasters like bushfires or floods, we could face a perfect storm."

Nationals MPs involved in the rollout of the funding have silent about when the assistance will be available.

Nationals Leader Michael McCormack is responsible for the Infrastructure Department while the Nationals Drought and Rural Finance Minister oversees assistance funding. Neither responded to questions before deadline.

The delivery failure follows a pattern of government rushing to drought fund announcements before delivery is organised.

Mr Littleproud announced ahead of the May 18 election that the federal government had instructed the Regional Investment Corporation to provide concessional loans targeted at restocking and replanting.

But the bureaucratic process of legislating the loans through parliament has proved harder than anticipated and farmers are still waiting for what could have proved to be a popular support measure, particularly if the lucky few croppers that had just enough moisture to plant could afford some seed.

The story $3000 drought payment still not available first appeared on Farm Online.


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