MONEY FLOWS: Christmas relief for our bushfire victims
With another Christmas coming past, for many of our bushfire victims, the horror of last year's fires is still a real burden on their lives.
While it can't replace what has been lost, more grant money is flowing to bushfire victims in time for Christmas.
Australian Red Cross has disbursed another $17.5 million in grants to survivors of last summer's bushfires. This comes as more than 1700 people came to Red Cross, for the first time, for help since June.
Funding was transferred to grant recipients at the end of last week. An additional $24 million is available for final grant payments and unmet needs within bushfire-affected bushfire-affected communities, with most of these funds expected to be spent in early 2021.
Australian Red Cross director Australian programs Noel Clement says thousands of people caught up in the summer bushfires have received support, because of the generosity of Australians and help of Red Cross volunteers.
"As of today 5,808 people have received one or more grants, 1891 have received additional support grants this week and 17,314 people have accessed help through our ongoing recovery program," he said.
"The scale of this disaster meant that some survivors weren't ready to apply until now. Around 1739 people have come forward for the first time since June alone. We're honoured to be able to assist where we are needed, so that the generous donations of Australians go where intended.
"This week we are pleased to offer those in financial hardship up to $10,000 in additional support grants, as many are still coping with magnitude of their losses. A second smaller round of the Additional Support Grant will open in February for those who really weren't ready to apply in this round.
"Community members have told us that their Red Cross grants have helped them find somewhere safe to live, make urgent repairs to their homes or meet medical expenses."
Red Cross has now dispersed or spent $201 million of the donated $240m since the bushfires. The remaining $39 million will be spent on further financial support and long term recovery work: $15 million to continue the community recovery program and $24 million for final grant payments and to meet unmet needs within bushfire-affected communities, with most of these funds expected to be spent in early 2021.
Even when the last grant is disbursed, Red Cross is committed to continuing its recovery program, already serving 46 local government areas in four states, for at least two more years to come.
"With disasters of this magnitude, immediate assistance is absolutely critical as is support for the long term recovery," Mr Clement said.
"It's been a year since the peak of the fires, and we know many have been unable to begin rebuilding their homes and are doing their best to cope with consecutive crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Red Cross is there for them with a long term recovery program. Already we have reached around 17,000 people in 46 local government areas helping communities lead their own recovery.
"Our trained recovery teams will be there for two more years providing psychosocial support and working alongside grassroots organisations, whether that be marking anniversary events or running information sessions with disaster experts."