SMEs across Melbourne, Queensland, Tasmania, and the ACT impacted by COVID-19 will receive support, while targeted relief has also been announced in Queensland.
New COVID-19 support packages have been announced for small-to-medium enterprises (SME) in the ACT and Melbourne, which are in lockdown due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus pandemic until Thursday (19 August).
Support has also been extended to Tasmanian businesses, which are trying to cope with ongoing impacts of border closures to its biggest visitor markets, while Queensland has announced various measures including targeted support for the tourism and hospitality industry.
Victoria – Melbourne
The Victorian government has opened the $180 million Small Business COVID Hardship Fund (jointly funded with the Commonwealth government) which will provide SMEs with $10,000 grants to weather the recent lockdowns.
The fund is designed to help businesses that are legally allowed to operate but have been prevented from generating revenue due to the restrictions and businesses that have experienced a significant dip in its customer base due to the restrictions.
To be eligible, these businesses must have experienced at least a 70 per cent drop in revenue because of the restrictions in place across May to August. Those applying for the grant will need to demonstrate their reduced turnover, be registered for GST, and not be eligible for other Victorian COVID-19 business grant programs that have been announced since 27 May.
Applications must include evidence of a revenue reduction of at least 70 per cent for a minimum consecutive two-week period since 27 May when comparing to a trading period not affected by restrictions.
Applications are now open and will close once program funds are exhausted or on 10 September 2021, whichever occurs first.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also announced that more than 95,000 businesses in metropolitan Melbourne will automatically receive payments of $2,800 under the earlier announced Business Costs Assistance Program, with grants scheduled to be paid within seven business days.
Furthermore, under the previously announced Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021, automatic payments of $5,000, $10,000, and $20,000 will be made in the coming weeks to more than 7,000 licensed hospitality venues in metropolitan Melbourne that have previously received or been approved grants.
Payment amounts will be tiered according to premises capacity with $5,000 for a capacity of up to 99 patrons, $10,000 for a capacity of 100 to 499 patrons, and $20,000 for a capacity of over 500 patrons.
Commenting on the new hardship fund, Victorian Minister for Small Business Jaala Pulford said: “This hardship fund will provide a cash lifeline to businesses that haven’t been eligible for our recent grants, so they can get through this really challenging time.
“We’ve stood with our small and medium-sized businesses since the beginning of the pandemic and we will continue to listen and act as circumstances change.”
The Commonwealth and the ACT governments have announced the jointly funded COVID-19 Business Support Grant, which will deliver grants of $3,000 for employing businesses and $1,000 for non-employing businesses where turnover has declined by 30 per cent or more due to the lockdown.
The grants will be available to local businesses that have experienced at least a 30 per cent reduction in turnover in the week between 13 and 20 August compared to the prior seven-day period due to restricted trading conditions.
Welcoming support from the federal government for the package, ACT chief minister Andrew Barr said that further jointly funded support programs would be considered should the current lockdown extend beyond the seven-day period.
He said: “We understand that this lockdown comes off the back of a period of slower economic activity as a result of outbreak of the virus in Sydney. ACT businesses have been supporting the government’s efforts to respond to the pandemic in the territory, but that has come at a cost.
“We want to protect jobs during this period, and it was important that the ACT and the Commonwealth were able to come together quickly and have this package ready for businesses that may be worried about their future as a result of this lockdown.”
The ACT government will also open a COVID-19 Small Business Hardship Scheme, where eligible ACT businesses can apply for credits on the cost of eligible fees and charges of up to $10,000 (inclusive of GST) per ABN.
This program will provide credits for payroll tax, utilities, rates, and certain business licenses for SMEs that can demonstrate a 30 per cent revenue loss.
Small businesses with a turnover of between $30,000 and $10 million per annum can apply.
Similarly, the Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments have announced a jointly-funded $20 million Business Support Package that will begin tomorrow (Tuesday 17 August).
While Tasmania is currently not in lockdown, the package is aimed at businesses struggling with the ongoing impacts of border closures to the state’s largest visitor markets.
The grants will be targeted at businesses operating in tourism, hospitality, arts and events, seafood and transport (hire car, coach tours) sectors, as well as those that have been impacted directly by reduced interstate visitation.
Financial support of between $2,000 and $10,000 will be available to businesses that have experienced a 30 per cent decline in their turnover. The grants will be non-competitive and assessed in order of receipt.
Speaking about the package, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said: “We know many of our businesses that rely on interstate and overseas visitation and trade are operating under severe hardship due to the current border restrictions, and we are taking action and doing what we can to help them through these difficult times.
“Importantly, we know these businesses are struggling now, which is why we have simplified the guidelines and will provide an accelerated process to ensure money can get out the door as quickly as possible.”
Mr Gutwein said that the government will continue to monitor the situation around Australia and review the impacts on the state’s businesses to determine if additional measures are required.
The Queensland government has reached a 50/50 funding agreement with the Commonwealth that will see the value of the COVID-19 Business Support Grants rise from $260 million to $600 million.
For businesses that have had a decline in turnover of more than 30 per cent, the package includes:
Queensland Treasurer and Minister for Investment Cameron Dick said that the dollar-for-dollar agreement with the federal government will see Queensland’s contribution rise to $300 million.
“From Monday 16 August, our $5,000 COVID‑19 Business Support Grants program will be open to businesses across Queensland, but this agreement with the federal government is in addition to that and means that we will be able to extend our support even further,” he said.
Earlier in the week last week, the Queensland government announced a $47.75 million Tourism and Hospitality Sector COVID-19 Lockdown Support Package to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns in Queensland and other states.
The package measures include:
In addition, it announced a $20 million Queensland COVID-19 Cleaning Rebate to cover expenses for SMEs and not-for-profit organisations affected by possible exposure to a COVID-19 case.
For those who have to undertake deep cleaning when a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 has been on their premise, the rebate will provide up to 80 per cent of cleaning costs, capped at $10,000 per incident where a business is a confirmed COVID-19 exposure site.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the support package has aimed to address the “twin burden” posed by international and domestic border closures and sharp lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Tourism minister Stirling Hinchcliffe said the new package was in response to industry feedback.
“I want to thank the Premier and Treasurer for their speed in building a targeted package to help get Queensland’s tourism and events industry back on its feet,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
“Throughout the lockdowns, I’ve been in regular contact with industry leaders and regional tourism organisations and know operators are really hurting.
“We know the lack of any sort of JobKeeper-style assistance from the federal government has brought Queensland’s tourism and events industry to its most desperate point since the pandemic.”
[Related: Governments extend COVID support to NSW, Vic]
Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.
Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.
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