Boost for small businesses

MORWELL small business owners and managers affected by the Hazelwood mine fire will be able to apply for government compensation.

The State Government has set up a $2 million fund to provide assistance to businesses that have been affected as a result of the fire.

The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry will administer the VECCI Morwell Business Relief Fund to provide short-term financial support to Morwell small businesses reliant on local trade that have suffered from smoke and ash.

Businesses may be eligible for funding of between $1000 and $10,000 depending on the hardship experienced.

Morwell cafe owner Claudia Davies said many businesses were just pulling themselves back up again.

Ms Davies said she did not know how user-friendly the VECCI administration would be and hoped it would be simple.

She intends to apply for a grant to cover additional costs incurred during the fire, such as higher electricity consumption while using air purifiers and air-conditioning, damage to her outdoor paving, as well as 20 per cent daily losses from decreased trade.

“We’ve made all the cuts and trims we need to do and then we do it again,” Ms Davies said.

Small Business Minister Russell Northe organised a business breakfast on Monday to support small businesses, with another scheduled next Monday.

Mr Northe said the workshop provided businesses with information to plan for recovery, provide a better understanding of business insurance issues, financial management and their obligations as an employer.

“The application process will be open through March with an independent panel of business specialists to begin assessments over coming weeks,” Mr Northe said.

In addition low-interest concessional loans of up to $200,000 will also be made available to businesses who have been affected by the February 2014 fires under the jointly funded Commonwealth-State National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

The next breakfast workshop will be held on Monday at Morwell Bowling Club from 7.15am to 10.15am. To book phone Latrobe City Council on 1300 367 700.