While many who live on Australia’s drenched east coast may be asking ‘When will the rain stop?’, a glance at the Bureau of Meteorology shows there’s much more to come.
Storms are forecast to continue to hit already flooded areas of south-east Queensland and New South Wales, while the clean-up in decimated areas such as Lismore begins as communities mourn those lost to the floods.
Meanwhile, around half a million people are under evacuation orders in parts of greater Sydney, the Illawarra, and northern NSW. Severe weather warnings for heavy rain and damaging winds are in place for these and other parts of the state.
The banking industry has responded to the developing flood crisis by announcing those affected can access financial relief measures, including the option to defer loan repayments by up to three months.
“As people affected by these terrible floods start the long, slow recovery, this will give some financial peace of mind,” said Australian Banking Association chief executive Anna Bligh.
“Loan deferral or reduced repayment arrangements for home, personal and some business loans are being offered across individual banks”.
Ms Bligh encouraged affected customers to talk to their bank as soon as possible.
“Once the worst of the emergencies are over and the clean-ups begin, we want Australians who have been impacted to know their bank is ready with tailored support to assist as they recover,” she said.
“The message from banks is clear: don’t tough it out on your own, call your bank, they are ready to help”.
Many inundated small businesses were already reckoning with the impact of the pandemic - a survey by Business Australia in December last year, polling more than 500 small and medium businesses, found 70 per cent said government economic support had been important to their business’ survival. A quarter had been significantly impacted by the pandemic in 2020, with this figure rising to 32 per cent in 2021.
Westpac today announced a $2 million fund for small businesses impacted by the floods, with eligible small business customers able to apply for $3,000 cash grants for urgent expenses and repairs.
“Our obvious concern immediately is for the safety of all these people and that we get them through the flood, but longer term what this fund is all about is bridging from the emergency to the recovery, and putting cash in their hand,” Chris de Bruin, Westpac Consumer & Business Banking Chief Executive told Sunrise this morning.
Mr de Bruin said while some businesses were unable to trade because their premises were flooded, others couldn’t get to clients or customers.
“Tradies cannot get on site, they can’t get to work, and so they are looking at a problem for the foreseeable future of not being able to generate cash flow,” he said.
The payments for small businesses are in addition to a suite of measures already in place.
“If you are affected, whether you’re a household or a business, call us … we’ll pause payments ... and we’ll have a conversation with you about what’s best for you, including extending more credit if that’s what helps you get back on your feet,” Mr de Bruin said.
He said helping small businesses had knock on effects for the rest of the community.
“Small business is the hero of the economy, employing almost five million people, and if we can get the businesses to stand up, it’s a bigger family, it’s the owner, it’s their family, it’s their staff, it’s the community,” he said.
“We feel if we help small businesses stand up, the communities rebuild faster.”