CANBERRA, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government has announced a support package for small businesses affected by bushfires.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business on Monday announced the "comprehensive suite of measures to immediately support impacted small businesses."
The support package includes low-interest loans of up to 500,000 Australian dollars (343,751 U.S. dollars) to businesses that lost significant assets in fires that have devastated much of the country since September.
Businesses and organizations damaged by fires will also be eligible to receive grants of up to 50,000 AUD (34,375 U.S. dollars) tax-free.
"This comprehensive package will make it easier for those who have suffered direct fire damage, or have been indirectly economically impacted following the bushfires, to get back on their feet," Morrison, Frydenberg and Cash said in a statement.
The government will spend 3.5 million AUD (2.4 million U.S. dollars) to establish a Small Business Bushfire Financial Support Line, which will be tasked with ensuring that relief is delivered where it is needed most.
The support package was announced after the government consulted with business leaders, including Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business Organizations.
"We were hoping to get grants of around 20,000 AUD (13,749 U.S. dollars) and the grants are 50,000 AUD," Strong told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
"So that's more than double what we were looking at so you can't complain about that."
Strong estimated that 430,000 businesses operate in areas affected by the bushfires and that the relief package could cost the government 800 million AUD (549.9 million U.S. dollars).
"I don't think the cost will be a billion dollars, but it could be up there," he said.