Westpac and National Australia Bank have joined the roll out of more cheap money to help flood-affected farm sector customers in North Queensland make property repairs, restock and re-open for business.
NAB will offer a massive $500 million in total concessional loans available at a reduced interest rates.
The bank earlier also backed additional funding and in-kind support to micro finance partner, Good Shepherd Microfinance, to help community loan providers get back-up and running with no-interest funds for those in need.
Westpac has established a $50m flood relief fund dedicated to helping farmers rebuild their businesses, including restocking cattle herds.
This week has also seen Commonwealth Bank of Australia also pledged to fork out up to $50 million in concessional loans for agribusiness customers.
NAB has made a $100,000 donation to the Australian Red Cross, matching a CBA donation, while Westpac has donated $250,000 to the Salvation Army and Foundation for Rural Regional and Renewal (FRRR) which will support the broader region to rebuild communities.
Westpac’s national agribusiness manager Steve Hannan, said for some farmers the business impact of heavy stock losses across the region would remain unknown for up to six months.
“So, it’s incredibly important that we alleviate any financial concerns now and give customers the confidence they need to start rebuilding their lives,” he said.
NAB’s chief customer officer for business and private banking, Anthony Healy, said bank staff and customers on the ground in North Queensland were all experiencing “a devastating impact” from the past month’s flooding.
“Regional businesses and agribusinesses are incredibly resilient, but government and banks must work together to help them through this,” he said.
“Some customers have suffered significant loss and damage to their stock and farms and we want them to know we are there to help and want to help.
“Our bankers will continue to visit businesses and regional communities in the coming weeks as conditions permit to assess requirements and provide support.”
Rabobank’s North Queensland deputy regional manager, Chris Adams, said areas such as around Julia Creek and Cloncurry, Richmond, Winton and the Gulf Country received a staggering amount of rain and battering from intense cold winds, in certain instances, forcing graziers to evacuate their properties.
“Some sugar cane was flattened by the rain and wind, but while a lot should bounce back, this will depend on how long it remains wet,” he said.
NAB’s concessional loans will be available in flood impacted areas on a case by case basis.
They could include discounted business loans for up to five years to assist with working capital such as repairs and restocking and equipment finance for up to five years at reduced rates.
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Decisions about credit were being made quickly and locally and credit card and personal loan relief would be available where appropriate.
Home and personal loan repayments may be suspended and charges for withdrawing term deposits early, or home loan and personal loan application fees, could be waived.
The bank was also providing support and counselling to customers via its own Employee Assistance Program.
Westpac is offering interest-only loans of up to $2m to eligible customers for up to three years at a heavily reduced variable interest rate (of 3.58 per cent annually), plus options to defer principal and interest repayments on existing business term loans and equipment finance for a year.
It, too will provide customer access to a confidential and free telephone counselling service for two years.
Mr Hannan said Westpac staff had been in regular contact with agribusiness customers to provide personalised support.
“Our disaster relief package remains in place and we are providing a range of immediate and practical options to support our customers,” he said.
“We also recently extended the $100 million drought relief fund which we launched last year to support farmers and I’m pleased to see customers taking advantage of these reduced-interest rate loans.”
Westpac Group is encouraging its employees to give generously to the Salvation Army and other registered charities, matching employee donations to eligible local charities.
Westpac will also accept public donations at all branches.
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