The much-anticipated investigation heard that thousands of businesses missed out on federal support, with small business ombudsman Kate Carnell revealing that business owners prefer government grants, not loans, as they cannot afford to get further into debt.
As such, the commission has recommended that consideration be given to understanding recovery needs that are common to natural disasters and developing a broad suite of pre-determined forms of assistance for individuals, small businesses and primary producers.
This, the commission noted, could include developing financial assistance models that scale according to the severity of impact on individuals to help address a broad range of needs and circumstances.
“There is also merit in regularly reviewing these measures to ensure they are effective,” the report reads.
Acknowledging the low uptake of concessional loans, the commission also stressed the need to evaluate the effectiveness of different types of financial assistance measures.
“Evaluations are important in understanding whether recovery support provided to individuals, small businesses and primary producers is reaching the right people and is achieving its objectives.”
Commenting on the report’s findings, Jane Rennie, general manager of external affairs, policy and advocacy at the CPA, opined that having a pre-determined model of disaster assistance would prevent delays in support reaching affected businesses, such as what occurred after last summer’s bushfires.
“When natural disasters occur, small businesses in rural and regional areas are often among the hardest hit. They need the certainty in the form of financial assistance to enable them to recover and keep serving their community — and they need it in the days and weeks following the event,” Ms Rennie said.
“Delays in deploying support make it harder for small business and affected communities to recover.”
While applauding the recommended development of a suite of pre-determined recovery support, Ms Rennie urged the government to keep small business front of mind and to ensure they have access to professional advice.
Ms Rennie concluded: “In implementing this recommendation, we urge the government to ensure that small businesses are a key focus of this model and financial assistance is accompanied by advice to help businesses make sound financial decisions during a time of great stress.
“Governments should assist local professionals to provide advice to small businesses, not just rely on pro bono advice from outside affected areas.”