Equine influenza horse seems to have bolted
By Sonia Caeiro
THERE WAS no crowd of disaffected workers and desperate business owners.
Instead only an eerie silence prevailed yesterday at an equine influenza financial assistance information session in Ballina.
The Centrelink event for%people affected by the EI break-out was decidedly under whelmed. Officials had set up a large function room full of chairs, lap-top driven presentations, and tables loaded with relief package information folders in the hope that crowds of people needing their help would come through the doors. No one did.
Centrelink representatives are nevertheless confident the information is getting out to those who need it.
"We have spent a lot of time contacting organisations whose members may have been affected by equine influenza," business manager Lou Wilson said. "Many inquiries have already been received in regards to the relief package. Today is just an extension of that."
Ballina Jockey Club is one such organisation that has already advised members and directed individuals to contact Centrelink for assistance.
Ballina Centrelink manager Kara Emerton is keen to stress that the first port of call for anyone requiring information or assistance is the EI 1800 hotline.
"You must register first your interest to apply and check your eligibility," she said. "We're here to expand on that and help people work through their individual requirements."
Money is not the only need in such circumstances and Ms Emerton is quick to point out the broad range of services.
"People often don't realise Centrelink has many professionals in the welfare and financial management fields," she said. "They are there specifically to assist applicants with all aspects of this package, including social welfare issues and future financial challenges."
Eligible applicants can receive payments backdated to the declaration of the EI outbreak on August 25. Relief package details and application forms are available from Centrelink, or via its website.