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Exceptional circumstances are the conditions required to grant additional powers to a government or government leader so as to alleviate, or mitigate, unforeseen or unconventional hardship.
The term is most commonly used in Australia where it has been applied in various contexts, most recognisably in relation to special drought relief payments for farmers known as Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payments or ECRP.
The Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payments or ECRP program was established in 1992 and has continued in various forms since. It provides financial assistance to farmers considered to be experiencing exceptional circumstances. Eligibility is generally determined by geographic location; specific areas are considered to be experiencing worse-than-normal drought conditions and, as such, farmers in those areas qualify for assistance. Farm-dependent small businesses may also be eligible for assistance.
In February 2009, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry announced that the payments would continue for an additional 12 months in 52 areas throughout Australia.
The Australian Government has also established a program to provide low-interest loans via private financial institutions which receive a subsidy from the Government. The program is known as the Exceptional Circumstances Interest Subsidy support scheme.
Qualification is based on terms (geographical location) set by the Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payments program.
The term has been used in a range of other governmental contexts in Australia including, but not limited to:
The term has also been used to refer to other extraordinary circumstances which might result in a person acting in a manner not ordinarily accepted as common practice, such as the circumstances described by Dr. Muhammad Hedayetullah in relation to the Islamic prayer, Salah.