WEDDIN Shire Council and Cowra Council will each receive $1 million in drought assistance funding following a further extension to the Federal Liberal and Nationals Government’s Drought Communities Programme.

Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development and Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack said adding more councils to the program would provide much needed support to communities doing it tough in the drought.

“The decision to extend the program was based on rainfall deficiency recorded over the two years to 31 December 2018 as well as agricultural workforce and other economic data such as unemployment,” Mr McCormack said.

“This extension will help to boost local employment opportunities, stimulate local spending and address social and community needs. It’s a stark reminder that this drought is far from over across broad swathes of our nation.

“This funding assistance will help to ease pressures and share economic benefits for people living and working in these areas who have been facing tough times, due to drought.”

In what is further good news for affected areas, becoming eligible for the Drought Communities Programme Extension funding also enables eligible farmers, farm workers and suppliers/contractors in each Local Government Area to apply for up to $3,000 per eligible drought-affected household through the Drought Community Support Initiative.

Arrangements are being finalised to make sure this valuable support can become available as soon as possible through providers including St Vincent de Paul and The Salvation Army.

Weddin Shire Council Mayor Mark Liebich said following several years of severe drought, funding provided under the program would be warmly welcomed by the residents of towns throughout the shire and the broader farming community.

“We are pleased to be receiving this additional support, with rainfall across the shire in recent years under half of average levels, making life particularly tough for the almost 40 per cent of the area’s work force that is employed on the land,” Councillor Liebich said.

Cowra Shire Council Mayor Bill West said that with unemployment in the local agricultural sector reaching around 17 percent, the injection of this funding for local projects was great news for local residents and businesses.

“It will enable council to embark on several projects that will be of great benefit to the local community now and well into the future,” Councillor West said.

In order to provide a much-needed boost to their local economies, Weddin Shire Council and Cowra Shire Council are required to complete their proposed local projects by 31 December 2019.

Project funding is intended to provide short-term support, including by boosting local employment and procurement, and addressing social and community needs.

Shane Manning