COVID-19 has pushed many rural Australians to breaking point after an already tough summer, an accountant has told nestegg.
Simone Palfreyman is the principal of Palfreyman Chartered Accountants in Cessnock and has seen a number of clients suffering due to business closures and separation of family and friends due to social distancing and isolation requirements.
In the space of months, Ms Palfreyman said rural Australians have already struggled through “drought, bushfires, floods and now a pandemic”.
In her work, the most common question she said her clients are asking is, “Can you help me?”
“They are desperate for help to keep their businesses alive, to retain their valued staff and still have enough money to feed their families and save their home.”
From her perspective, “the role of being a trusted adviser has never been as onerous”.
While she has welcomed the introduction of government assistance measures, “the lack of detail and timing delays have not helped my clients to plan how to keep their business, their families and their lives afloat”.
Business-owner clients “have been confused by what entitlements are available to them, what rules apply and how they go about registering for these”, she said.
On the other end of the stick, she said she also has clients who are concerned that their employers “are trying to use COVID-19 to reduce their entitlements, and need help to navigate the constantly changing employment rules and government entitlements”.
Ms Palfreyman has conceded that “so many” of her clients are facing the same issues.
“We are assisting our individual clients with advice on JobSeeker versus JobKeeper payments, as well as issues such as enforced stand-downs and annual leave. We are preparing cash-flow forecasts and business mentoring, and generally trying to assist our clients to survive COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, they are also working with business clients to ensure they apply for all government stimulus packages they are entitled to.
She said: “Clients need more assistance than ever in navigating the new COVID-19 environment, [especially where] the legislation and government stimulus opportunities are changing on a daily basis.
“Our aim is to help our clients to survive this pandemic and have a business or career to return to.”