BUSHFIRE-AFFECTED farmers who missed out on rebuilding grants due to restrictions in tax laws will benefit under changes to be announced by the Federal Government - but holiday home owners have been overlooked.
Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry will today announce amendments to the law, effective immediately, allowing the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund to distribute around $51 million tied up due to a technicality preventing businesses from receiving charity donations.
Farmers who were ineligible for funds because their properties were owned by a trust or business will now have access to grants of up to $10,000.
Proposed yearly assessments of children under the age of 18 who were orphaned during the fires have also been scrapped under the changes. Bill Shorten, parliamentary secretary for Victorian bushfire reconstruction, said families caring for orphaned children would not be means-tested for the financial support those children received from the fund.
Up to $15,000 in additional support for people living in transitional housing would also be available on a needs basis.
However, "weekenders" who lost their holiday homes in the fires appear to have missed out. The Age believes that grants have not been paid to weekenders affected by the fires, hundreds of whom owned homes in devastated Marysville, because the homes were not their primary residences.
Senator Sherry said second-home owners who were fully-insured would not be eligible for grants, but those without insurance could still be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Meanwhile, changes to the State Government's controversial "stay or go" policy and more detailed warnings on bushfires are expected to dominate the first report of the Black Saturday royal commission.
Speaking ahead of today's release of the Commission's interim report, Premier John Brumby said there was a need for clearer messages around fire danger, and flagged a focus on town refuges in bushfire areas.
Mr Brumby said he did not want to pre-empt the royal commission but it was not practical to introduce forced evacuations.
The Commission's final report is due out next July.
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