The Federal, Victorian and some local governments have announced measures to help business continue operating and to assist with the recovery process from COVID-19.
Please contact our membership team on 03 8662 5333 or email@example.com if you have any questions, are concerned about workplace relations issues or how to trade through the COVID-19 crisis.
Victoria: Andrews Government support
Business Support Package
Sole Trader Support Fund
Grants of $3,000 will be provided to eligible sole traders working in sectors of the economy that will continue to be affected by restrictions.
To be eligible for a grant, sole traders must be a tenant or licensee in a commercial premises or location and operate in a sector of the economy that is restricted or heavily restricted.
Further information is available from Business Victoria.
Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package
Grants of up to $5,000 are available to help hospitality businesses encourage outdoor dining, e.g. umbrellas, outdoor furniture, screens and other equipment. The grants will be available to licensed and unlicensed cafés, restaurants, takeaway food businesses, pubs, taverns, bars and clubs with a payroll of less than $3 million.
Further information is available from Business Victoria.
Hospitality Business Grant Program
One-off grants of $25,000 are available for medium-to-large sized food service businesses with a payroll between $3 million and $10 million that have been affected by restrictions throughout Victoria.
An additional $5,000 is available for each additional premises located within metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire, capped at a total of $20,000.
Eligible businesses with premises located in Melbourne CBD (postcodes 3000, 3005, 3006 and 3008) will also be eligible for an additional $20,000 grant.
Applications are open until further notice. Further information on the eligibility criteria and how to apply is available on the Business Victoria website.
Wellbeing and Mental Health Support for Victorian Small Businesses
Victorians can access the mental health support they need to navigate through the impacts of COVID-19. Key elements of the program include accredited mental health training delivered by St John Ambulance and the Partners in Wellbeing telephone hotline - 1300 375 330 - providing free access to one-on-one wellbeing support, business advisers and financial counsellors.
These support services are expected to continue until 2022, with demand and future conditions set to guide further services. Additional program information is available via Business Victoria.
Business recovery and resilience mentoring
The Victorian Chamber is partnering with the Victorian Government to deliver a Business Recovery and Resilience Mentoring Program to help small businesses navigate the economic challenges due to COVID-19. Eligible business owners can receive up to four two-hour mentoring sessions with an experienced professional who will help them make informed decisions about the future of their business.
For more information, please visit our dedicated webpage.
CBD Small Hospitality Grants
The CBD Small Hospitality Grant provides additional support to small and medium hospitality businesses in Melbourne CBD that have previously received a grant from the Business Support Fund – Expansion program.
Eligible businesses will be provided with a one-off grant of either $5,000 (for businesses with a food service seating capacity in the CBD of 11 to 100 seats) or $15,000 (for businesses with a food service seating capacity in the CBD of 101 or more seats) to help with the continued operation of their business.
Applications are now open. Further information on the eligibility criteria and how to apply is available on the Business Victoria website.
Building digital capacity
The Small Business Digital Adaptation Program will assist sole traders and small businesses in building their digital capability through off-the-shelf digital programs such as Shopify or Square online and workshops designed to help adapt to online operations. Businesses will receive up to $1200. Applications are open from 16 November. More information can be found at Business Victoria.
Expressions of interest for businesses to be a product supplier for this program are open until 4 December. To register, visit Business Victoria.
The Global Gateway program that provides one-off grants of up to $50,000 to identify and engage professional service providers to deliver project activities to support their export recovery. Businesses must make a minimum co-contribution of 20 per cent of the project costs. Grant applications are now available and close at 11.59pm on Sunday 17 January 2021. Applications can be made via Global Victoria.
Virtual Trade Missions will be undertaken in 2020/21 to help connect businesses to global opportunities and help them conduct their international business across digital platforms. Register your interest via Global Victoria.
Further programs will be announced in coming months. To be notified of further announcements, register your interest via Global Victoria.
Unresolved applications for the Business Support Fund
Some businesses have contacted the Victorian Chamber about unresolved applications. If businesses are unable to receive a clear answer from Business Victoria, we recommend that businesses contact the Victorian Small Business Commission and the Victorian Ombudsman.
Payroll tax refund and deferral
Businesses with annual Victorian taxable wages up to $3 million will have their payroll tax for the 2019-20 financial year waived. These businesses can also defer paying payroll tax for the first quarter of the 2020-21 financial year.
An employer whose Victorian taxable wages for the 2019-20 financial year did not exceed $10 million has the option to:
- defer payment of their payroll tax liability for the months of July 2020, August 2020 and September 2020 until 14 January 2021, and
- defer payment of their payroll tax liability for the months of October 2020, November 2020 and December 2020 until 7 March 2021.
Businesses participating in the JobKeeper scheme in Victoria will be exempt from payroll tax and the WorkCover premium on payments to their employees if their staff are currently stood down.
Payments above a part-time employee’s usual salary, due to JobKeeper being a minimum fortnightly payment, will also be exempt from payroll tax and the WorkCover premium.
On 13 September, the Victorian Government announced payroll tax deferrals will be available for the full 2020-21 financial year.
For more information visit sro.vic.gov.au/coronavirus
Licensing, land tax and rent relief
Commercial tenants in government buildings will be offered rent relief, and 2020 land tax payments will be deferred for eligible small businesses with land holdings of less than $1 million in value. The SRO will contact all eligible landowners about this.
If a landlord provides tenants impacted by coronavirus with rent relief, they will be eligible for a 25 per cent discount on their land tax, while any remaining land tax can be deferred until March 2021.
The Victorian Government will also bring forward the 50 per cent stamp duty discount for commercial and industrial property for all of regional Victoria, defer the planned increase in the landfill levy for six months, waive 25 per cent of the Congestion Levy this year with the outstanding balance deferred, liquor license fee waivers for 2021 and waive Vacant Residential Land Tax for vacancies in 2020.
For more information visit sro.vic.gov.au/coronavirus
For more information on liquor licenses visit vcglr.vic.gov.au.
Support for pubs, clubs and restaurants
The Night-time Business Economy Support Initiative provides commercial rental relief for licensed businesses impacted by COVID-19 who aren’t covered by the Commercial Tenancies Relief Scheme. Eligible businesses can access:
- Reimbursement of up to $20,000 per business group for expenses incurred in obtaining specialist business and tenancy advice since 29 March 2020
- Free mediation services to help tenants and landlords reach a fair and proportionate commercial outcome on rental payments
- Relief for commercial rent hardship of up to $150,000 per business group where it can be shown that the business has sought to negotiate in good faith with the landlord with no result.
Businesses operating a single venue are not eligible for this initiative. Business covered by the commercial tenancy relief scheme are also not eligible.
Working for Victoria Fund
Displaced workers will be eligible to apply for different opportunities for paid work and to contribute to Victoria’s ability to manage this event and support the community through the Working for Victoria Fund. The initiative also assists businesses to employ Victorian job seekers who have lost jobs as a result of COVID-19. For information relating to job seekers, click here (PDF download, 37kb). For information relating to businesses, click here, (PDF download, 36kb).
Retrenched Apprentices and Trainees program
The Retrenched Apprentices and Trainees Program aims to assist apprentices and trainees who have lost their employment complete their training.
Employers who have job vacancies for apprentices or trainees can register their interest and will be matched with suitable candidates for you to interview. Employers may also be eligible for Federal Government incentives (such as the Supporting Apprentice and Trainee wage subsidy).
Apprentices and trainees who have lost their employment are encouraged to register their interest in the program. Once on the register, apprentices and trainees will be assisted by one of our program officers until placed with a host employer through a Group Training Organisation (GTO) or directly with an employer.
The Victorian Chamber is supporting the delivery of this program which is being managed by the Apprenticeship Employment Network (AEN).
COVID-19 Test Isolation and Worker Support Payments
If your employees have been instructed by the Department of Health and Human Services to self-isolate or quarantine at home because they are either diagnosed with COVID-19 or are a close contact of a confirmed case, they may be eligible for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Isolation Payment and $1500 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Worker Support Payment.
Federal: Morrison Government support
JobKeeper extension (from 28 September)
The JobKeeper Payment is available until 28 March 2021, targeting support to those businesses and not-for-profits who continue to be significantly impacted by coronavirus.
From 28 September 2020, the JobKeeper Payment will be extended for businesses and not-for-profits that have been most significantly impacted, and the payment rates will be stepped down and two tiers of payment will be introduced.
A fact sheet is available from The Treasury’s website.
Under a new eligibility test (announced on 7 August), businesses now only need to show a fall in turnover in the quarter to the end of September, compared to the same period last year. Further changes include coverage for people employed on 1 July, rather than 1 March, ensuring new staff will be able to receive the payments if their employer is struggling.
The ATO is administering the JobKeeper Payment and detailed information and guidance on JobKeeper is available on the ATO website.
JobKeeper payment rates
From 4 January 2021, JobKeeper 2.0 will move into its final phase, with business again needing to reassess their turnover in order to remain eligible for JobKeeper payments. Payment rates will also be reducing under the final phase of JobKeeper.
The JobKeeper payment rate has been reduced and will be paid at two rates:
From 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021, the JobKeeper Payment rates will be:
- $1,200 per fortnight for all eligible employees who were working in the business or not for-profit for 20 hours or more a week on average in the four weeks of pay periods before either 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020, and for eligible business participants who were actively engaged in the business for 20 hours or more per week on average; and
- $750 per fortnight for other eligible employees and business participants.
From 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021, the JobKeeper Payment rates will be:
- $1,000 per fortnight for all eligible employees who were working in the business or not for-profit for 20 hours or more a week on average in the four weeks of pay periods before either 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020, and for business participants who were actively engaged in the business for 20 hours or more per week on average; and
- $650 per fortnight for other eligible employees and business participants.
For some employers this will mean that they will need to take steps in order to ensure they remain eligible for JobKeeper 2.0. For other employers who may find themselves no longer be eligible for JobKeeper, they may wish to consider their eligibility as a ‘legacy employer’ (see below) in order to continue to access some of the JobKeeper-enabling directions.
Due to the imminent nature of these changes we have put together an Information Sheet which provides a high level summary of the changes with suggested actions to be taken by businesses to make sure they meet a number of upcoming deadlines and do not fall foul of the JobKeeper rules and face penalties. To be read with the JobKeeper 2.0 Employer Guide also below.
Further information is available from the The Treasury’s website.
Legacy Employers: Employers who qualified for JobKeeper 1.0 prior to 28 September 2020 who do not qualify for JobKeeper 2.0 but are still able to show at least a 10 per cent decline in turnover and so are able to access some modified workplace law flexibilities for their employees who previously received JobKeeper payments. Please read this document for more information.
Employers must elect to participate in the scheme. They will need to make an application to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and provide supporting information demonstrating the downturn to their business.
Employers will pay staff the JobKeeper payment through their existing payroll systems. They will then be paid in arrears by the Australian Tax Office monthly.
Temporary changes to the Fair Work Act mean that employers will be able to change staff hours (while maintaining their current hourly rates of pay) to bring their pro rata pay down to payment rate per fortnight. Employers will also be able to request that employees take annual leave, down to a balance of two weeks / 10 days and agree to the taking of double annual leave at half pay.
JobKeeper, payroll tax and WorkCover premiums
Any additional payments made to bridge the gap between an employee’s normal wage and the JobKeeper rate per fortnight required for the JobKeeper program are now exempt from payroll tax and WorkCover premiums.
As such, JobKeeper payments to staff that have been stood down or payments above a part-time or casual employee’s usual salary, due to JobKeeper will be exempt from payroll tax and the WorkCover premium.
For more information visit sro.vic.gov.au/coronavirus
A second phase of this scheme will start on 1 October 2020 and will be available for loans made until 30 June 2021. The details of this second phase can be found here.
Under a Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme, SMEs with a turnover of up to $50 million will be eligible to receive new unsecured loans of up to $250,000 for working capital with the Government guaranteeing 50 per cent of the loan.
How the loan works
Starting 1 April 2020 unsecured loans of up $250,000 per borrower and up to three years, with an initial six-month repayment holiday will be available until 30 September 2020. Borrowers will not have to provide an asset as security for the loan. The Scheme will apply to new or existing customers of banks and non-bank lenders. Lenders will not be charged a fee for accessing the Scheme.
The Government is also providing a six months exemption from responsible lending obligations for lenders providing credit to existing small business customers. This applies to any credit for business purposes, including new credit, credit limit increases and credit variations and restructures.
For more information Read the Government Fact sheet.
Small businesses with existing loans will benefit from the agreement by Australian banks to defer repayments on loans for six months. Bank hardship teams can also assist with business and personal financial arrangements. For more information visit the Australian Banking Association.
Apprentice wage subsidies
Under the Federal Government’s Supporting Apprentices and Trainee (SAT) program, eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of an eligible apprentice or trainee’s wages paid until 31 March 2021.
Subsidies will also be available to any new employer who re-engages an eligible apprentice that was displaced by an eligible small or medium sized business.
- Your small business may be eligible if:
- you employ fewer than 20 people; or
- you are a small business with fewer than 20 people, using a Group Training Organisation; and
- the apprentice or trainee was undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship with you on 1 July 2020 for claims after this date.
- Your medium-sized business may be eligible if:
- you employ fewer than 200 people; or
- you are a medium business with fewer than 200 people, using a Group Training Organisation; and
- the apprentice or trainee was undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship with you on 1 July 2020.
- Any employer (including all small, medium or large businesses and Group Training Organisations) who re-engages an apprentice or trainee displaced from an eligible small or medium business may also be eligible for the subsidy.
Claims from small businesses are now open, while claims from medium-sized businesses will open on 1 October 2020. Final claims for payment must be lodged by 30 June 2021.
Register now by contacting the Victorian Chamber’s Apprenticeship Support Australia team.
For more information on eligibility criteria visit the Federal Government’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment Supporting Apprentices and Trainees website.
Boosting Apprenticeship Commencement
The $1.2 billion Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy will support businesses and Group Training Organisations (GTOs) to take on new apprentices and trainees, to build a pipeline of skilled workers to support sustained economic recovery.
Any businesses or GTO that engages an apprentice or trainee on or after 5 October 2020 may be eligible for a subsidy of 50 per cent of wages paid to an apprentice between 5 October 2020 and 30 September 2021, to a maximum of $7,000 per quarter. This program is available for existing workers under specific circumstances.
Further information on eligibility and additional information can be found at the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website. To register for this program contact the Victorian Chamber’s Apprenticeship Support Australia team.
To lessen the threat of actions that could unnecessarily push otherwise profitable and viable businesses into insolvency and help ensure businesses can resume normal operations when the crisis has passed, are the following temporary measures:
- Relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent
- Increasing the threshold for creditors issuing a statutory demand on a company from $2,000 to $20,000 and extending the timeframe for a company to respond from 21 days to six months
- Increasing the threshold for a creditor to initiate bankruptcy proceedings from $5,000 to $20,000 and extending the time period for debtors to respond to a bankruptcy notice from 21 days to six months and extending the period of protection a debtor receives after declaring an intention to enter voluntary bankruptcy from 21 days to six months
- Providing temporary flexibility in the Corporations Act 2001 to provide targeted relief for companies from provisions of the Act to deal with unforeseen events that arise as a result of the Coronavirus health crisis.
For more information Read the Government Fact sheet
Help from the ATO
The ATO will tailor solutions for owners or directors of business that are currently struggling due to the Coronavirus, including deferring payments, varying pay as you go instalment amounts and refunding past instalments, withholding enforcement actions including Director Penalty Notices and wind-ups.
Contact the ATO on 1800 806 218 or visit the ATO website at ato.gov.au for more information.
Backing business investment
Businesses with turnover of less than $500 million are eligible for an expanded instant asset write-off for asset investments of up to $150,000. The threshold applies on per asset basis, so businesses can immediately write-off multiple assets.
They can also access a 15-month investment incentive by accelerating depreciation deductions. For more information Read the Government Fact sheet
The Government has temporarily expanded eligibility for income support payments – including JobSeeker Payment.
In addition, the temporary Coronavirus Supplement of $250 per fortnight is available until 31 December 2020.
Further information can be found through the Treasury’s website.
See the Victorian Chamber’s Income support webpage with further information for sole traders and self-employed contractors or for employees who’ve been terminated, made redundant, stood down without pay, moved from full time to casual or had their hours of work reduced.
Temporary early release of superannuation
The Government is allowing individuals affected by the Coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. Individuals will not need to pay tax on amounts released and the money they withdraw will not affect income support payments.
For more information Read the Government Fact sheet
Bank loans and repayments
Australian banks have agreed to defer repayments on loans to small businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak for six months. They also have hardship teams ready to assist you with your business and personal financial arrangements, depending on your circumstances. Visit the Australian Banking Association website for more information.
Local government measures
City of Melbourne
The City of Melbourne has released a local economic stimulus package to support city businesses affected by COVID-19. The package includes the suspension of fees for street trading permits, halving rent for eligible tenants in Council owned buildings and rates hardship support.
For immediate support, contact the Business Concierge Service on 9658 9658 (press 1 for Business Concierge), or visit City of Melbourne Business for more information.
Find out how your local government can assist
Local governments across the state are doing what they can to support businesses and local communities at this time. To find out how your council can help your business, please visit www.viccouncils.asn.au/find-your-council
If financial or social challenges are making it hard to manage toll payments, Linkt can help. Their confidential support is adapted to your changing needs, head to the website to find out more.
Tools and resources
We will update the information available here as more detail becomes available. Please check back often.