Regional small businesses suffering the brunt of lockdowns, drought and bushfires will be provided with ongoing Australian Government assistance supporting their economic recovery through the Small Business Financial Counselling Program.

The Regional Small Business Support Program pilot – valued at $8.6 million nationally – will be rolled out in 2022, building on the Drought Communities Small Business Support pilot.

Coordinator-General of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency, the Hon Shane L Stone AC QC, said the program provides valuable support to small businesses, which are the backbone of regional economies.

“Regional small businesses are the social and economic lifeblood of their communities. Even during the tough times, they create local jobs, support local events and make sure their neighbours and friends don’t go without,” said Mr Stone.

Rural Business Support (RBS) has been proudly providing the service in South Australia and Northern Territory since March 2020. RBS clients work one-on-one with small business financial counsellors and support staff to better understand their financial position, identify risks and opportunities for improvement and implement plans to improve their financial wellbeing.

RBS CEO, Brett Smith, believes there is scope for the expansion and continuation of the program beyond the pilot.

“Rural small businesses in SA and NT have really struggled over the last two years, not only with sustained drought impacting their communities, but with COVID locking out some local clients as well as international and interstate tourism and, for many, staff,” said Mr Smith.

“The recent hail storm events in South Australia created havoc for main street businesses in the Barossa, Adelaide Hills and the Riverland, and now the sudden closure of the Eyre Peninsula Oyster Industry will hit small businesses who serve these communities too,” he said.

“With SA now opening our borders to COVID-19, small business owners are still uncertain about managing the impact should they become exposure sites, meanwhile the NT is currently grappling with regional lockdowns.”

Since the pilot commenced in March 2020, RBS Small Business Financial Counsellors:

  • have worked with 268 rural small business owners to October 2021, helping secure the employment of over 700 individuals
  • successfully helped 48 small business owners to build financial resilience before transitioning out of the program by 30 June 2021
  • assisted 149 small business owners to access $422,513.30 additional support through a Professional Services Fund

Nationally, the pilot has supported more than 1,350 regional small businesses employing approximately 3,100 people.

The 12-month extension gives certainty to businesses already part of the pilot program and allows others impacted by regional lockdowns, bushfires and drought to access the service.

Small Business owners requiring support are encouraged to ring RBS on Freecall 1800 836 211. Our services are free, independent and confidential.