LEICHHARDT MP Warren Entsch has welcomed news that the Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA) has been extended to the Shire of Cook, meaning eligible people can claim assistance for lost income as a result of Cyclone Ita.
The DRA is designed to help employees, primary producers and sole traders get back on their feet and back to work, by providing up to 13 weeks’ payment equivalent to the maximum rate of Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance for eligible Australian residents.
It is also designed to maintain the local workforce in the disaster affected area and support longer-term local and regional economic and community recovery.
“I only recently became aware that there were farms in the outlying parts of Cook Shire which were very badly damaged, losing most – if not all – of their crops,” Mr Entsch said.
“One of these was 70km north of Cooktown, right in the path of Cyclone Ita when she made landfall, and they lost 100 per cent of their paw paw crop, 100 per cent of their passionfruit, 100 per cent of their small winter crops including cucumbers, watermelons and honey dew, and 70 per cent of their avocados.
“They also had trees come down and damage to machinery, sheds and houses, resulting in loss of accommodation, services and income.
“On top of that, they had no mobile reception, no house phone and limited internet for eight weeks which was a huge strain on their business, with no means of contacting suppliers, customers, transport companies or the myriad of agencies they needed to be in contact with to have chance of rebuilding.
“Fortunately, I was able to contact Telstra and get this remedied very quickly. Once they had communications up and running, I was able to find out more about the state of their farm. Due to their location, which was 3KM outside the Hope Vale Shire boundary, they weren’t able to apply for DRA assistance for their workforce.
“I’ve advocated strongly with the Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, and the evidence of this farm ? and others in the area ? has enabled him to extend the DRA to Cook Shire.”
Mr Entsch urged people who were directly affected by Ita to apply for assistance as soon as possible.
“The easiest way to lodge a claim for assistance is by calling the Australian Government Information Line on 180 22 66 from 8am to 5pm local time, Monday to Friday. Completed claim forms can also be lodged in person at a Commonwealth Department of Human Services service centre,” Mr Entsch said.
Further information on Australian Government assistance is available online at www.disasterassist.gov.au.