New COVID-19 support for businesses

Hopes restrictions will be eased further this week

A MASSIVE new support package will result in $3 billion in cash grants, tax relief and cashflow support delivered to help Victorian businesses along the roadmap to ‘COVID normal’.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the multi-billion package to help businesses survive and keep Victorians in jobs – taking the government’s total business support to more than $6 billion.

More than $1.1 billion in cash grants will support the small and medium-sized businesses most affected by coronavirus restrictions, including $822 million as part of the third round of the Business Support Fund.

About 75,000 eligible businesses with payrolls up to $10 million will receive grants of $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 – depending on their size.

More than 108,000 businesses have already shared in $1.47 billion from the first two rounds of Business Support Fund grants.

To support bars, restaurants, pubs, clubs, hotels and reception centres, the government will establish a $251 million dedicated Licenced Venue Fund, with grants of between $10,000 and $30,000 for licenced venues of all shapes and sizes.

The government is also providing additional relief by waiving liquor licence fees for 2021.

It will give businesses in alpine resorts grants of up to $20,000 to help cover their resort fees, saving them a combined $4.3 million.

The government will partner with local business groups and chambers of commerce, with grants if up to $20,000 so they can help their members adapt and find their feet in a COVID-normal world.

To date, almost 20,000 Victorian businesses have received payroll tax refunds in the past financial year worth more than $540 million – and thousands more received a full waiver.

To provide $1.7 billion in cashflow boost for businesses, the government will now defer payroll tax for businesses with payrolls up to $10 million for the full 2020-21 financial year.

Building on that support, the government will also provide $137 million in waivers and deferrals of charges including liquor licence fees, the congestion levy and increases to the landfill levy.

The 50 per cent stamp duty discount for commercial and industrial property across all of regional Victoria will be brought forward to January 1 and the Vacant Residential Land Tax will be waived for properties which are vacant in 2020.

The government says it will allocate $44 million to equip businesses with support to thrive under a COVID-normal.

It includes $20 million for small businesses to access off-the-shelf digital programs such as Shopify or Squareonline, training and workshops designed to help businesses adapt to online operations.

The government has already rolled out Click for Vic, a website and campaign aimed at encouraging Victorians to support food and wine producers, homewares business and galleries.

With the website already generating 211,000 leads to businesses featured, the government will provide $8.5 million for more marketing and advertising, and expand the digital platform and its partnerships with third-party e-commerce providers.

A $15.7 million export recovery package will be launched to address logistics and supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, and establish new export channels.

Businesses will be connected to international markets through virtual trade missions as well as assistance to adapt their export strategies to respond to the rapidly changing global market.

“For our state to recover, we need our businesses to recover too,” Premier Andrews said.

“As we take our first safe and steady steps towards COVID-normal, this support will help make sure we get through this together.

“We’ll continue meeting with and listening to businesses, so we can do everything we can to support them and their workers.”

Treasurer Tim Pallas said as the number of COVID cases was being driven down, the government was providing billions of dollars in support to make sure businesses made it through to COVID-normal.

Industry Support and Recovery Minister Martin Pakula said the government was helping business endure during these difficult times and to rebuild.

“This package comes on the back of extensive consultation with businesses in every sector,” he said.

The Australian Hotels Association state president David Canny welcomed the grants for hotels and pubs, and waiving next year’s liquor licence fees.

“We have been closed since March, so this is a most welcomed assistance package,” he said.

“The government is recognising our plight, but we call on them to rethink their roadmap to recovery.”

Mr Canny urged the government to ease the restrictions on country hotels and pubs, many of which were more than 100 kilometres from an active COVID-19 case.