Bushfire recovery: how is Australia’s $2bn fund being spent? | Australia news


On 6 January, Scott Morrison announced the federal government would allocate at least $2bn for bushfire recovery.

Since then a flurry of programs have been announced. So how is the bushfire recovery funding being spent?

So far, the federal government has committed to spend the $2bn on the following.

Programs allocated from $2bn bushfire fund

Although a total of $367m has been allocated to individual measures, some $1.6bn is still unallocated.

That funding is administered by the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, run by the former Australian federal police commissioner Andrew Colvin.

Primary producers

Farm, fish and forestry businesses in fire-affected regions are eligible for grants of up to $75,000 to be spent on essentials such as fodder and water, rebuilding fencing and hiring agricultural equipment like water pumps, irrigation systems, horticultural netting and generators.

Price tag: $100m.

Mental health

The $76m mental health package, announced on 12 January, includes:

  • $29.6m for additional Medicare-supported psychological treatment sessions and expanded access to mental health care via telehealth

  • $10.5m for up up to 10 free counselling sessions for individuals affected by the bushfires, including emergency services personnel

  • $6.9m for community wellbeing grants and further funding for locally tailored mental health services through Primary Health Networks (PHNs)

  • $3.2m to deploy bushfire mental health response coordinators to fire affected areas

  • $4.4m over five years to expand the planned Batemans Bay headspace and expedite funding to ensure the centre is up and running by the end of the year.



Bushland burnt out by the Cobargo bushfires. Photograph: James Gourley/AAP

Local government

The federal government has given $1m to 42 councils, with an extra $18m allocated for those most affected by bushfires.

Most recipients (33 councils) are in New South Wales, five are in Queensland, two in Victoria (including East Gippsland) and two in South Australia (including Kangaroo Island).

Charities

Charities including the Salvation Army Property Trust and the St Vincent de Paul Society, which collectively provide services across the affected areas, received $40m able to be used for a broad range of basics including utility bills, clothing, petrol and bus tickets.

Financial counselling

Several elements of the package contain funding for financial counselling, including:

  • $15m for 60 more rural financial counsellors

  • $10m for extra support for the National Debt Helpline and increased funding for locally-based providers

Young people

Young people benefit from $8m to double family payments for children under the age of 16 and $8m for an extra 25 Beyond Blue liaison officers to help children’s mental health.

Other forms of emergency funding

The $2bn does not include Australian government disaster recovery payments, a one-off, non-means tested payment of $1,000 per adult and $400 for each child under 16 years of age who have been adversely affected by a major disaster.

On current estimates, $46m will be paid out to 39,000 people through this program; with $8m from the $2bn fund allocated to double the payment for children to $800.

The $2bn also does not include disaster recovery funding arrangements in category A (assistance to individuals), category B (assistance to the state, and/or local governments for the restoration of essential public assets and certain counter-disaster operations) and category C (assistance for severely affected communities, regions or sectors).

The government is also providing $5m from the Medical Research Future Fund for bushfire related health research.

The government has also suggested there are further elements of its bushfire relief program yet to be rolled out, including a small business package.



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