The Delta variant of COVID-19 has caused widespread economic disruption across Australia, especially in Greater Sydney, the country’s biggest city, where up to five million residents have been in lockdown for more than six weeks and 32 people have died from the virus. Four states in total have been subjected to business interruption and lockdowns – NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. As restrictions continue in some states, many businesses are eligible for state and/or federal assistance. Does your business qualify?
In terms of business planning, the future is unknown due to the latest pandemic outbreaks which have hit a number of states in Australia. The Greater Sydney lockdown has been extended to at least 28 August 2021, but may be extended past that date.
The federal government has ruled out the return of the previous JobKeeper assistance program. In order to deal with the uncertainty and to keep businesses afloat and workers employed, a number of federal and state government assistance payments are available to businesses and also to their staff. Firms that qualify for the criteria can use the payments to pay rent and other business costs until restrictions are lifted at some time in the future and normal trading can resume.
JobSaver, the joint NSW-Commonwealth rescue program which provides weekly payments for businesses struggling in the face of the long Sydney lockdown, applies to 460,000 businesses in the state and will help around 3.3 million workers, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
In the most recent JobSaver announcement on 28 July, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the threshold for eligible businesses would lift from those that have annual turnover of $50 million, to $250 million and for those that had experienced a fall in revenue of 30 per cent or more since 2019. Businesses that turn over anywhere between $75,000 to $250 million per annum can apply for the payments.
Eligible businesses can receive between $1,000 and $10,000 a week to help them retain employees. The payment covers the period from 18 July to the end of the lockdown. However, there is a separate one-off payment, the COVID-19 Business Grant, which covers a different period from 26 June to 17 July. Applications for this payment close on 13 September 2021.
A condition of receiving assistance is that businesses must maintain their full-time, part-time and long-term casual staffing level as of 13 July.
Eligible businesses can also claim other government funding in NSW. Here is a summary of what is available on the Service NSW website.
Individuals and households
For individuals and households, visit the Service NSW Financial support page.
In NSW, applicants can receive both the COVID-19 Business Grant and JobSaver, according to CPA Australia’s Guide to the JobSaver Payment. JobSaver is a cash flow support payment to eligible businesses, but it does NOT need to be passed on to employees because it is not the same as JobKeeper.
Workers (individuals) can also claim compensation directly from the federal government under the Commonwealth COVID-19 Disaster Payment if their employer is receiving JobSaver. It is a payment for workers impacted by business shutdowns due to the pandemic. In NSW, the maximum support payment was recently raised from $600 to $750 a week, while the payment for those who have lost work fewer than 20 hours a week would be raised from $375 to $450.
Different rules apply in different states. Check information for your state here.
State funding programs
A guide to grants available in different states for business support can be found on the federal government’s website business.gov.au.
In Victoria, the Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two co-funded by the Commonwealth and state offers grants of up to $7000 to eligible businesses, including employing and non-employing businesses, depending on their industry sector, location and the number of weeks they closed. The new Victorian Business Support Package will deliver an additional $400 million in support to thousands of businesses.
The package includes a new $85 million Small Business COVID Hardship Fund and $156 million Business Continuity Fund, as well as support for commercial tenants and landlords. Other assistance packages are also available.
Tens of thousands of South Australian small and medium-sized businesses that had suffered a significant loss of income or been forced to close as a result of the state’s seven day lockdown have also been offered a $3,000 emergency cash grant as part of a major financial assistance package announced by the state government. The new Business Support Package – worth about $100 million – would assist an estimated 50,000 eligible SMEs across the state.
The Queensland Government will provide $5,000 payments to small and medium businesses across Queensland affected by the current COVID-19 lockdown and lockdowns in other states. Treasurer and Minister for Investment Cameron Dick said the $260 million 2021 COVID-19 Business Support Grant program would help small businesses deal with the state’s three-day lockdown.
The Small Business Lockdown Assistance Grant supports small businesses impacted by the recent circuit-breaker 4 day lockdown and interim restrictions across Perth, Peel and regional Western Australia. The grant program will provide a one-off $3,000 cash flow support. Applications close on August 31.
Criticism of funding packages
The NSW rollout of JobSaver payments has come in for criticism from accountants because it is confusing and slow.
In Victoria, the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia says the rules around the Business Assistance Package are inequitable and unfair. Businesses that are not registered for the GST are ineligible for state support payments.
Any businesses experiencing difficulty in accessing payments should seek help from their accountants.