COVID money for business, but Bull says it’s just not enough

Like many retailers, Orbost business owner Annette Towns, pictured with Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull, has once again had to close her doors because she does not have the capacity to offer internet hosted click and collect services.

A NEW jointly-funded package from the federal and state governments will give Victorian small and medium businesses support to recover from the most recent lockdown.
New cash payments will underpin businesses most affected by the lockdown, which the government says has been introduced to eradicate the deadly Delta strain of coronavirus that has re-emerged in Victoria.
A $400 million package will provide automatic payments to almost 100,000 eligible businesses, including sole traders, to ensure money is distributed quickly.
More hardship funding will be made available to eligible businesses that do not qualify for existing programs.
The new package follows the $400 million Commonwealth-state injection announced a fortnight ago, and builds on more than $950 million in support grants paid by the state government into the bank accounts of Victorian businesses since June.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said since the beginning of the pandemic the federal government had delivered more than $45 billion to Victorian families and businesses to support them in “their hour of need”.
“On top of the $415 million in COVID-19 Disaster Payments and business support we have provided in recent weeks, we are now delivering a further $200 million in business support for Victorian business,” he said.
“This will help cushion the blow of the recent lockdown and provide hope for the future.”
State treasurer Tim Pallas said the state government had provided more than $7 billion in direct economic support for Victorian businesses since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Every step of the way since this global pandemic began, Victoria has not shirked its responsibility to back our business community – this is immediate and targeted support right now, when it is needed most,” he said.
State Industry Support and Recovery Minister Martin Pakula said support was crucial.
“Decisive action is required to tackle this incredibly infectious strain of coronavirus, but we know it doesn’t come without a cost,” he said.
“This support will help the worst-affected businesses pay their bills and plan for a strong recovery.”
Five key elements make up the support package to help businesses deal with ongoing public health restrictions.
Eligible workers who lose hours because of the lockdown will be eligible for support through the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Disaster Payment, as will businesses that do not qualify for state government support programs because they are not registered for GST.
Under the new business support package, more than 90,000 businesses will be automatically paid a Business Costs Assistance Program Round Three grant of $2800.
New payments of $5000 to $20,000 will be made to more than 8900 hospitality venues which received funding support from the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund through the May-June and July lockdowns.
Payments will be automatic and graded by venue capacity to a total of $68.8 million.
Alpine businesses will receive between $5000 (off-mountain) and $20,000 (employing businesses, on mountain) under the extension of the Alpine Business Support Program.
Some $54 million will be added to the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund, allowing grants of up to $8000 to be paid to small businesses which are not eligible for support under existing programs and have experienced a 70 per cent reduction in turnover.
For more information visit business.vic.gov.au
Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull said support packages without restrictive criteria which exclude any level of business must go hand in hand with any COVID-19 lockdowns.
“The goodwill has gone, the reserves have dried up — and for some there is no tomorrow without full compensation for losses,” Mr Bull said.
“The time has come for the Premier to stop thanking businesses ‘for their sacrifice’ and give them the support they need.
“Since the fires destroyed a full tourist season, our businesses have been locked down for just on seven months in the time since.”
On top of removing restrictive criteria, Mr Bull said support must better match losses.
“You cannot have a business that regularly brings in $15,000 plus per week being offered $3500 in compensation.
“They can’t pay the bills and keep the doors open,” he said.
“My office is hearing from many that do not qualify for support, or if they are lucky enough to meet the restrictive criteria, it goes nowhere near covering costs.
“The minister has said before the packages are not to compensate for full loss, rather assistance – well a lot have no more nest eggs to call on.
“It’s crunch time,” Mr Bull said.
“Since this lockdown was announced [on Thursday], I have already heard from business owners who say they can’t go on.
“If this government is going to lock up regions 350 kilometres from the nearest case or exposure site, it has to pay.
“The government’s own data tells us the packages reach about one in five businesses in the state, but there are far more than one in five struggling, with many already closed.
“We were given hope when in the last lockdown the minister said he would set up a concierge service for those commercial enterprises that fall through the cracks, but those needing help called to be told again they don’t qualify — words not backed up by actions.”
Mr Bull also called on those who support state-wide lockdowns to be as equally vocal on the supports needed by the business sector when it happens, but many conveniently forgot the latter.