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Rural Financial Counselling Service Southern Queensland (RFCS-SQ) provides free, impartial, confidential and responsive rural financial counselling services across Southern Queensland.
The RFCS Programme in Queensland is funded by the Australian and Queensland Governments.
NEWS
CORONAVIRUS AGRICULTURAL IMPACTS

The agricultural industry has largely avoided dramatic Coronavirus closures and market impacts to date but the impacts ARE being felt by primary producers.

There are measures in place to assist the industry.

CORONAVIRUS AGRICULTURE COORDINATION GROUP
The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries convenes an agricultural coordination group to address the concerns of the Queensland agriculture industry about coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact.
The group has representation from government agencies and key agriculture and supply chain industries.

In addition, there are 4 advisory working groups, involving government and industry groups.
The 4 working groups include workforce availability, workplace health and safety, business continuity working and supply chain and logistics.

A communique is distributed after the groups meet.
These communiques summarise the issues raised by the groups, additional issues that have arisen and the actions to be taken.
You can read them here.

CALL 13 25 23
As a first point of contact for information, you can contact an Agriculture Coordination Officer by calling 13 25 23.
Read a press release from the Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner here.

COVID-19 JOBS SUPPORT LOANS
Due to overwhelming demand, the Queensland Government’s $500 million COVID-19 Jobs Support Loan scheme has now closed to new applications.
Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) is continuing to process the large number of applications submitted as quickly as possible until scheme funding is exhausted.

LAND RENTS WAIVED
STATE land rent have been waived for six months under a new measures adopted by the Palaszczuk government to protect Queensland businesses and jobs during the COVID-19 crisis.
Read an article in Queensland County Life

RURAL FINANCIAL COUNSELLING SERVICE
The Rural Financial Counselling Service provides free financial counselling to producers who are suffering financial hardship and have no alternative sources of impartial financial information.
The service is funded by grants from government,
Call us on 07 46 225500

WELLBEING SUPPORT
If you are experiencing personal crisis, or are concerned for a loved one, you can call the following services for assistance and counselling:
Australian Red Cross on 1300 554 419
24/7 Lifeline crisis support line on 13 11 14
Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

 
SEASONAL WORKER ANNOUNCEMENT

The Queensland Government has announced that growers can maintain a seasonal workforce while meeting their COVID-19 public health obligations.

Premier, 
Annastacia Palaszczuk said the industry needed clarity about managing an incoming workforce, particularly backpackers, at an important time of year.
“Everyone needs fresh fruit and vegetables to stay healthy during this time, and much of Australia’s produce is grown right here,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“To harvest these crops our horticulture industry has an average monthly workforce demand of up to 10,000 skilled and unskilled workers over the next six months, but COVID-19 restrictions must also be followed.
“So we have a clear message to agricultural employers and workers about what they need to do, especially if they come from a coronavirus hot spot.”

Any seasonal worker coming to Queensland would need a border pass and details of:
where they had been for the previous two weeks
written confirmation of a job in Queensland
and where they planned to reside.

If they have come from a declared COVID-19 hotspot, they must also self-quarantine for 14 days at their own or employer’s expense before starting their employment.

The Government will also:
promote the importance of complying with health obligations
insist on mandatory health management plans
strengthen compliance
and ensure local solutions for local circumstances are developed.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said Wide Bay Burnett, Cairns and Moreton Bay North will have the highest demand for harvest workers, followed by Darling Downs-Maranoa and Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday.
“During this process we need to keep everybody safe, and we all have an obligation for taking actions that prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Mr Furner said.
“That means everybody involved in the agricultural employment and supply chain — workers, transporters, accommodation providers, employers, labour hire companies and local communities — are responsible for ensuring proper arrangements.
“Our plan will facilitate the movement of agricultural labourers while ensuring health and safety for them and our regional communities.”
“Agricultural seasonal worker employers, transporters and accommodation providers must have a health management plan in place. Employers must comply with stringent record keeping on the health status of their workforce.”
Mr Furner said agricultural production was a key pillar of the Queensland economy and was always going to be vital in managing the pandemic.
“That’s why we moved quickly to declare agriculture an essential industry. Queensland farmers and fishers have built a global reputation for their great produce and we stand by them 100 per cent.”

For further information on health management plans, recording employment/travel history and health status of employees, and other COVID-19 agribusiness support, visit www.business.qld.gov.au

 
ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT

Rural Financial Counselling Service SQ has been allocated additional funding for Small Business Financial Counselling for business adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are expanding our team of specialist Small Business Financial Counsellors.

Eligible businesses with a workforce up to 200 employees can arrange free, confidential, impartial financial counselling with a specialist small business financial counselling  in their region.

 
Program Coordinator, Jo Tardent answered some questions about the service.

What does the Small Business Financial Counselling Service do?
 
When you first contact the Small Business Financial Counselling Service, you’ll be referred to your closest specialist Financial Counsellor.
Normally we’d arrange a visit either at your business or in our offices but right now, we’re adapting to COVID-19 restrictions and offering that contact remotely either by phone or Zoom.
Initially we’ll discuss the broad picture, things like, what does your business do, what are your concerns, what assistance do you need?
 
A lot of our work is referring businesses to Government support packages.
We can provide a general consultation to provide assistance accessing and applying for government support available for businesses suffering from a loss of trade and associated staffing issues.

We also help a lot with debt restructuring or refinancing and that involves a case managed process.
We arrange an Authority which allows us to contact your accountant, creditors and banks.

Once we’ve gathered things like financial statements and bank statements, we’ll start a comprehensive financial analysis of your historical financial position and prepare a Statement of Position.
We’ll work with you to prepare a cash flow or budget and identify options for your business.
A cash flow is an essential tool to prepare for a successful business future.
Together, we’ll set goals and develop an action plan to get there.
If you need further support, we can identify service providers that are suitable and help you prepare for further meetings.
 
Your relationship with us is reliant on your ability and willingness to face the issues head on and work towards fixing them.
We’ll support you but we won’t make decisions for you.
The decisions you make will be based on solid financial information that you understand.
 
What would you say to business considering making an appointment with the service?
 
If you’re feeling any level of financial stress relating to the drought, COVID-19 or something else, you need to take immediate action.
Getting a business health check can make a difference in the number of options for the future.
Don’t wait for creditors to take legal action because that just means you lose a lot of your decision making ability.
 
If you’re trading as a company, it’s vital to seriously consider your duty as a director – you could be putting your personal and family assets at risk by continuing to trade when you should be addressing issues.
 
You can talk to a Financial Counsellor that understands the challenges you are facing in small business.
Knowing someone who can assist you going forward will give you a sense of purpose and motivation and put you back in the driver’s seat.
 
If you have the slightest inclination that your business could benefit from free financial counselling – pick up the phone today and call 1300 732 700.
 
Why should a business work with the service?

 We put you and your business first – our team of Financial Counsellors all come from finance backgrounds so we understand the businesses and the industries that you are part of.
We analyse, identify, review, create and discuss but never instruct.
You build the plan for a better business future but you’re not on your own.
Our clients like that.


YOU CAN CONTACT THE TEAM ON 1300 732 777.
AGRICULTURE COORDINATION OFFICERS

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries
The Honourable Mark Furner
Friday, April 17, 2020

Government appoints Agriculture Coordination Officers to COVID-19 response

A team of Agriculture Coordination Officers will support producers, the agriculture industry and local governments to manage COVID-19 thanks to the Queensland Government.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said regional economic development, extension, research and biosecurity staff were available as Agriculture Coordination Officers to ensure rapid assistance during these unprecedented times.

“Department of Agriculture and Fisheries staff have always worked closely with producers and industry and, in these extraordinary times, we will build on these existing relationships to provide coordinated, timely support,” Mr Furner said.
“There are approximately 100 Agriculture Coordination Officers across the state available to help agribusinesses deal with the complexities of COVID-19 as required.
“This support includes assisting producers and industry to access relevant information quickly without having to navigate a myriad of websites and in some cases with limited or no connectivity.”
Mr Furner said staff will proactively check-in with stakeholders to see how they are going and to ensure they have the information they need to manage their situation. 
“Agriculture Coordination Officers with suitable regional and technical knowledge will also respond to enquiries from local governments through their District and Local Disaster Management Group meetings,” he said.
“We will continue to support our producers, local governments and industry groups such as AgForce, Queensland Farmer’s Federation, Growcom and Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation so our agriculture supply chains can continue to deliver for Queensland communities.
“The Queensland Government acknowledges that agricultural, fisheries and forestry businesses are essential and will continue to be supported as we work together throughout this COVID-19 incident.
“The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will continue to provide support, information and assistance to commercial, recreational and charter fishers, aquaculture, forestry and quarrying businesses and permittees.”

To contact an Agriculture Coordination Officer email the Customer Service Centre at csc@daf.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23.
For further information on COVID-19 agribusiness support visit www.business.qld.gov.au.

$3000 DROUGHT SUPPORT PAYMENT

The Salvation Army and St Vincents De Paul are delivering assistance through the Australian Governments Drought Community Support Initiative (Round 2).
This round commenced on November 21, 2019.
If you are a farmer, a farm worker, a farm supplier or a farm contractor who is doing it tough due to the drought, you may be eligible for a one off payment of up to $3000.
To be eligible, you need to:
  • be over the age of 18
  • be an Australian citizen or a permanent resident
  • live and/or work in the Goondiwindi, Lockyer Valley, Longreach, North Burnett, Quilpie, Scenic Rim, Somerset, South Burnett, Southern Downs, Toowoomba or Winton shires
  • have not already received this payment
The maximum amount a household can receive is $3000.
If more than one eligible household member reside in the same resident, the total assistance provided to the household cannot exceed $3000.
You can apply for the drought assistance online at www.salvationarmy.org.au/drought or www.vinnies.org.au/droughthelp or by calling the Salvation Army on 1300 551 030 or St Vincents De Paul on 1300 846 643.

The payment is not considered taxable income.
If you had assistance in Drought Community Support Initiative Round 1 (which concluded on June 30, 2019) you ARE eligible to apply for assistance for Round 2.
UPCOMING EVENTS
SMALL BUSINESS WEBINAR

Small businesses adversely affected by COVID-19 can get free, impartial information about the support measures they can access and some important information.

Our Small Business Coordinator, Jo Tardent will present the webinar at Tuesday the 12th of March at 9am.

Register at www.rfcssq.org.au
RURAL BUSINESS WEBINAR

Primary production businesses struggling financially will be provided with a summary of the support available from a variety of sources.

Our Roma based Rural Financial Counsellor, Nathan Wichlacz will present the webinar on Friday the 15th of March at 12noon.

Register at www.rfcssq.org.au
STAFF
KIM ZERNER

Kim Zerner is our Rural Financial Counsellor in Warwick.
Alongside her co-worker, Michael Fagg, Kim looks after the area within Southern Downs Regional Council.

What do you like best about your job?
I enjoy being part of clients creating a great outcome for their business, especially when perhaps they thought they may not have been eligible for certain assistance. 
I have an accounting background and strangely enough I enjoy the detailed components of what we do, including looking through financial reports and problem solving.
Over the years, I’ve met so many beautiful people of all generations and it's rewarding to realise there is appreciation of the work we do.
As Rural Financial Counsellors, we work with some great networks of business people in various banking, government and accounting sectors which allows us to refer clients if more detailed assistance is required.

What’s keeping you busy in your region?
In the last six months our area has been devastated by drought, fire, floods and now COVID-19 which has had a major impact on our primary producers, along with our broader community and small businesses. 
The drought has been the longest running issue in our area and it is undoubtedly the one that has had the most impact on our current work load.

Tell us about your life….
I grew up on a sheep and cattle property in Western Queensland (west of Charleville) which helps me relate to my clients and the diverse range of farming operations we service.
I completed school at Charleville and made the trek east to attend University.
After graduating, my first role was in taxation accounting where I further studied for my Certified Practising Accountants degree.  
For the past 20 years, Warwick has been home and for the entire time, I’ve worked with farmers in a financial capacity.
Outside of work, I am married to my wonderful (and very patient) husband, Gary and I’m a mother of 14 year old twins. 
I try and stay active and confess that I’m obsessed with travelling, even if it’s just camping……… camping with my family is my “happy place”. 
I would camp every weekend if my husband would let me.


What's important?
I can’t stress how it’s so important for farmers to not self-assess. 
It does require a bit of time and effort to put your financials and relevant information together, but the potential for financial assistance or business analysis is so worth the investment of their time.

If you're in the Southern Downs region and would like to arrange an appointment with Kim, please call her on 0491 259 950
DONNA NEALE-ARNOLD

We're super excited to welcome a new Small Business counsellor to the RFCSSQ team.

Based in Warwick, Donna Neale-Arnold will provide Financial Counselling to small and medium businesses in the Southern Downs, Scenic Rim, Goondiwindi and the Lockyer Valley.

What do you like best about your job?
Value adding to a business with my accumulated knowledge, so they are well placed to make the very best decisions for their business.

What’s keeping you busy in your region?
Impacts of Covid-19, which has been worse for rural and regionally based businesses due to impacts already on them of drought and bush fires.

Tell us about your life...
I was formerly a Bank Manager, Rural Financial Counsellor, Small Business Owner & generalist Financial Counsellor, now I have been given the opportunity to deliver this form of Financial Counselling.
"I feel privileged to assist Small Business in a holistic manner and combine my qualifications in Health Science, Management & Counselling with Financial Skills to get vital options to clients - especially at a time when they are relying on accurate information to guide their decisions."

You can contact Donna on 0417 383 288
CEO'S REPORT
Jenny Whip


Moving into March, I can’t help but reflect on how much of the year has already passed and how the events of 2020 so far will have far reaching repercussions for many years to come.
Drought and bush fires have been heavily impacting our farmers for the last few years and now we’re dealing with an international pandemic breakout which is devastating our small businesses, particularly hospitality and tourism.
The impacts on individuals, businesses and industry is quite remarkable but has driven home to me the resilience of Queenslanders.
Those businesses in rural and regional towns that are heavily reliant on the agricultural industry have been dealt a cruel, double blow.

We have a team of specialist counsellors ready and keen to offer financial counselling to small and medium businesses and our farming sector.
Our team are knowledgeable and experienced in accessing support programs and can assist with succession and retirement plans.
Now more than ever, getting the basics right is imperative.
We can help with things like understanding your financial statements, investigating business option, negotiating with lenders, building a business plan and overall, taking the time to look objectively at your business and plan for your successful future.

I am always astounded at how our passionate team of counsellors respond to new challenges and financial imposts on our small businesses and primary producers. 
The team are committed to investigating the options available as well as ensuring they are abreast of any new government assistance to ensure the client's application process is streamlined.

This Rural Finances newsletter is our way of communicating the latest support, assistance and guidance that is available for our small, medium and primary production businesses.
There IS support out there from State and Federal Governments and we’re keeping across the changes for you.
We continue to work with clients in relation to drought and bushfire recovery and as winter descends, those who haven’t enjoyed drought breaking rain are steeling themselves for a very long cold snap.
With the Coronavirus impact on our communities, our face to face meetings and handshakes may have stopped, but our service hasn’t. 
Our team are here to support you and your community as much as possible.
We encourage you to contact us to discuss your individual situation with us on 07 46 22 5500 or visit the website – www.rfcssq.org.au. 
 
Remember, we are here to assist, it’s free, we’re not affiliated with any financial organisations and your confidentiality is paramount.



Jenny Whip

 
CHAIR'S REPORT
Karen Tully

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted our personal, business and social lives in unprecedented ways.
Our entire planet is being affected significantly and rural Queensland has been certainly caught up the disruption caused by the pandemic.
Firstly, I would like to thank all members of our team – financial counsellors, administrative team and our Chief Executive Officer for your dedication and assistance to our clients in this exceedingly busy time. 
Your willingness to bravely step up and contribute to the financial counselling team serving both primary producers and small business owners in this COVID-19 emergency is admirable and noteworthy. 
I would also like to thank our clients for your ongoing patience and support as we navigate our way forward whilst implementing different operating models in this challenging time. 
We continue to offer the same caring, impartial and confidential service, albeit in a different mode.
Unprecedented numbers of businesses, both primary production and small to medium enterprises have had to quickly grapple with business continuity plans and implement strategies to adapt to the crisis. 
Whilst the government (at all levels) is steering the pandemic response ‘train’, we are all having to respond and change gears (up, down and sideways) to keep our own ‘wagons’ on the track, and the business ‘journey’ continuing. 
It is fair to say that restoring normal ‘travel plans’ is not something that we as a service, as a society or as a nation are looking at any time soon. 
At this point in time, most business are looking at implementing business plans that cater for survival mode, or are looking to hibernate, pause, care or maintain the existing business model. 
A few business owners have seen their turnover escalate dramatically and this mode also presents its own unique challenges. 
If you require help in implementing or refining your small business continuity plan, our team of financial counsellors are keen to discuss possible business options with you which may include assistance in the following areas. 
How to pay creditors?
Need more time to pay?
How will things look in six months’ time?
Do you sell assets or draw on savings?
Stay open, hibernate or close?
Missing payments on loans or credit cards?
Not able to buy enough stock, equipment or materials?
Increasing business or personal debt?
Facing legal action for debt recovery?
Fearful of repossession?
Spending more than is coming in?
Need assistance in understanding government support options?
Please be assured that our team are available and ready to help both primary production and small business enterprises. 
We can work with you to analyse your situation so you can take steps to manage the impacts of COVID-19. 
We have counsellors available to discuss options with you so you can make decisions that will help you through this unprecedented time in history.  
Stay well, stay safe and stay connected. 

This too shall pass. 


Karen
Disclaimer of Liability 
Every effort is made to provide accurate and complete information in RFCSSQ’s newsletters, however, RFCSSQ cannot guarantee that there will be no errors.
RFCSSQ makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of the newsletters and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of this newsletters.
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Our mailing address is:
42b Wyndham Street, Roma QLD 4455
Phone: 07 46 22 5500 Email: admin@rfcssq.org.au

Rural Financial Counselling Service Southern Queensland is supported by the Federal and State Governments

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