COVID-19 Government rescue measures

What government support measures mean for your business.

Updated 12 August 2020, 3.30pm

The Federal, Victorian and some local governments have announced measures to help business continue operating. Information on what these mean for members can be found in this factsheet.

Please contact our membership team on 03 8662 5333 or membership@victorianchamber.com.au if you have any questions, are concerned about workplace relations issues or how to trade through the COVID19 crisis.

 

 

Victoria: Andrews Government support

 

Business Support Package

On 10 July 2020, the Victorian Government announced a $534 million Business Support package to help businesses and workers get through the coronavirus pandemic. Some elements of this package were updated on 3 August 2020 in response to the introduction of Stage 4 restrictions.

There are several components of the package and while we are still awaiting details on some of them, they include:

Expanded Business Support Fund

To support businesses impacted by the introduction of Stage 3 and Stage 4 restrictions, one-off grants will be made available to eligible businesses under the Business Support Fund – Expansion program:

  • $10,000 for employing businesses in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire in recognition of spending longer under restrictions
  • $5,000 for employing businesses in regional local government areas (except Mitchell Shire)

Businesses which have already received a BSFe grant, or have applied for one, will not need to re-apply. Successful applicants will automatically receive this additional allocation.

To be eligible, businesses need to be a participant in the Commonwealth Government’s JobKeeper Payment scheme, employ people, be registered with WorkSafe on 30 June 2020 and have an annual payroll of less than $3 million in 2019-20.

Applications for the program will be extended until 14 September 2020 and applications can be made here.

This program is in addition to the first round of the Business Support Fund, which closed on 1 June 2020.

Applications for the fund close on 19 August 2020.

Night-time Economy Support Program

A $30 million dedicated fund is being made available to help the hardest hit businesses in hospitality.

Eligibility criteria and application forms have not be released yet, however, businesses can register their interest here.

Mental Health Support

There is $26 million in mental health support to help Victorians dealing with the challenges of running a small business. This is critical to help ease the stress many SME business owners are experiencing as a result of the crisis and their financial dilemma.

Business Mentoring

$10 million is being made available to pair small business owners with experienced professionals who can help them navigate their way through the crisis.

Eligibility criteria and application forms have not be released yet, however, when they are we will provide further details here.

Regional Tourism Accommodation Support

The new restrictions mean residents in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, as well as some interstate visitors, are not able to travel to regional Victoria. As a result, there have been significant booking cancellations with regional accommodation providers.

Businesses in regional Victoria impacted by these cancellations will be able to apply for a payment of up to $225 per booking, per night up to a maximum of $1,125.

Applications are open until the end of the current Stay at Home restrictions or when funds are exhausted. Applications can be made here.

CBD Business Support Fund

Small businesses in Melbourne’s CBD are faced with a large and sustained shock to their trading environments. To help them, a $20 million fund has been created.

Eligibility criteria and application forms have not be released yet, however, businesses can register their interest here.

Extended and Expanded Payroll Tax Relief

Businesses will also benefit from an extended and expanded payroll tax deferral. Eligible businesses with payrolls up to $10 million can defer their liabilities for the first half of the 2020/21 financial year.

Unresolved applications for the first Business Support Fund

Some businesses have contacted the Chamber about unresolved applications for the Victorian Government’s first Business Support Fund announced in April 2020 providing funding of $10,000 to help businesses survive the impacts of the first wave of restrictions which has now closed. If businesses are unable to receive a clear answer from Business Victoria, we recommend that businesses contact the

^ RETURN TO TOP

Payroll tax refund and deferral

Small and medium-sized businesses with total Victorian payroll of less than $3 million will automatically have their payroll tax for the 2019-20 financial year waived and be refunded any payroll tax they have already paid in 2019-20.

The SRO will directly contact eligible businesses about reimbursement or businesses can claim a reimbursement via PTX Express following these simple instructions.

Watch the video: How to claim a COVID-19 payroll tax reimbursement (on the sro.vic.gov.au website)

Eligible businesses must continue to lodge returns but do not need to make further payments for this financial year.

Payroll tax for the first three months of the 2020/21 financial year will be deferred until 1 January 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 $1500 fortnightly payment, will also be exempt from payroll tax and the WorkCover premium.

On 10 July, the Government announced the extension and expanded payroll tax relief deferral. Eligible businesses with payrolls up to $10 million can defer their liabilities for the first half of the 2020-21 financial year.

For more information visit sro.vic.gov.au/coronavirus 

^ RETURN TO TOP

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. For more information visit sro.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

Liquor licensing fees for 2020 will be waived for affected venues and small businesses. For more information visit vcglr.vic.gov.au.

^ RETURN TO TOP

New payment terms

The Government will pay all outstanding supplier invoices within five business days. The private sector is urged to do the same where possible.

^ RETURN TO TOP

Support for pubs, clubs and restaurants

On 3 May 2020 the Victorian Government announced a $40 million package of support for pubs, clubs and restaurants in order to provide rent relief to venues that are not covered by the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme.

This initiative recognises that these venues, unlike many other commercial tenants, have complex licencing and leasing arrangements. Grouping provisions in the legislation governing the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme mean that some individual venues with a turnover of under $50 million may be ineligible for rent relief due to being part of a group of entities.

This initiative provides eligible businesses with:

  • 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.

Program guidelines and an application form have now been made available on the Business Victoria website here

^ RETURN TO TOP

Working for Victoria Fund

The Victorian Council of Social Services and Victorian Trades Hall Council, alongside the Victorian Government, will administer a $500 million 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. 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. For information relating to businesses, click here.

^ RETURN TO TOP

Retrenched Apprentices and Trainees program

The Coronavirus pandemic has seen a sharp reduction in apprenticeship and traineeship employment. The Retrenched Apprentices and Trainees Program has been created in response to this challenge. The 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).

To register for this program and for further information, visit AEN’s website or contact the Victorian Chamber’s Apprenticeship Support Australia team. 

^ RETURN TO TOP

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Isolation and Worker Support Payments

The Victorian Government is providing financial support to Victorian workers who are waiting for test results or self-isolating

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 coronavirus (COVID-19) or are a close contact of a confirmed case they may be eligible for the $300 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Isolation Payment and $1500 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Worker Support Payment.

^ RETURN TO TOP

Federal: Morrison Government support

 

JobKeeper extension (from 28 September)

If you currently receive JobKeeper Payment it remains unchanged and available until 27 September 2020. New applications for JobKeeper remain open, subject to meeting the relevant eligibility requirements.

On 21 July 2020, the Government announced an extension of the JobKeeper Payment until 28 March 2021, targeting support to those businesses and not-for-profits who continue to be significantly impacted by coronavirus.

  • The existing JobKeeper Payment will remain in place until 27 September 2020. Information about the operation of the JobKeeper Payment until 27 September 2020 is available on the ATO website. 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.

Further changes were announced on Friday 7 August 2020 to adjust the reference date for determining employee eligibility and make it easier for organisations to qualify for the JobKeeper Payment extension. An updated fact sheet is available from The Treasury’s website.

Business eligibility

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. The previous rules announced on 21 July meant that companies had to show a fall in turnover in the June, September and December quarters of this year in order to remain eligible for the wage subsidy.

However, with companies restarting in June as restrictions were eased, there was risk many businesses would not meet the scheme’s turnover reduction threshold in the September quarter.

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

The JobKeeper payment rate is to be reduced and 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.

Further information is available from the The Treasury’s website.

Download our JobKeeper 2.0 Employer Guide Addendum - Edition 2

^ RETURN TO TOP

JobKeeper Payment (until 27 September)

The Federal Government will provide businesses with a wage subsidy of $1,500 per employee, per fortnight before tax. The payment will be paid to employers, for up to six months, for each eligible employee that was on their books on 1 March 2020 and is retained or continues to be engaged by that employer.

Self-employed individuals can also get the JobKeeper Payment where they’ve suffered (or expect to) a 30 per cent decline in turnover.

How the payments work

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.

The first payments won’t be received until the first week of May, but they will be backdated to 30 March 2020. Businesses facing cash flow difficulties may be able to use the JobKeeper program as a basis to seek credit from their bank to tide them over until payments begin.

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 $1500 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

The Victorian Government has announced that any additional payments made to bridge the gap between an employee’s normal wage and the $1500 a 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 being a minimum $1500 fortnightly payment, will be exempt from payroll tax and the WorkCover premium. For more information visit sro.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

For more information, Read the Government Fact Sheetsregister with the ATO, and read our JobKeeper Payment Quick Employer Guide.

Download our JobKeeper Payment Quick Employer Guide - Edition 8

Download our JobKeeper 2.0 Employer Guide Addendum - Edition 2

^ RETURN TO TOP

Employer cashflow boost

Small to medium businesses and not for-profits (NFPs) with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million that employ staff are eligible for payments to help with cash flow so they can keep operating, pay bills and retain staff.

Active eligible employers established prior to 12 March 2020 can access tax-free cash payments for the period March 2020 to September 2020.

How the payments work

The payment will be delivered by the ATO as an automatic credit in the activity statement system from 28 April 2020 upon employers lodging eligible upcoming activity statements. Where this places the entity in a refund position, the ATO will deliver the refund within 14 days.

Eligible employers that withhold tax to the ATO on their employees’ salary and wages will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of the amount withheld, up to a maximum payment of $50,000.

Eligible employers that pay salary and wages will receive a minimum payment of $10,000, even if they are not required to withhold tax.

An additional payment equal to the total of all the previous payments will be made in the July – October 2020 period, meaning eligible employers will receive at least $20,000 up to a total of $100,000. Entities must continue to be active to qualify for the additional payment.

For more information Read the Government Fact sheet

^ RETURN TO TOP

Concessional loans

*Note a second phase of this scheme has been announced and will start on 1 October 2020 and will be available for loans made until 30 June 2021. The details of this second phase have not been finalised however, when they are, information will be provided 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.

^ RETURN TO TOP

Apprentice wage subsidy

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. 

^ RETURN TO TOP

Director obligations

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

^ RETURN TO TOP

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.

^ RETURN TO TOP

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

^ RETURN TO TOP

Income support

The Government has temporarily expanded eligibility for income support payments – including JobSeeker Payment.

In addition, the temporary Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per fortnight is available until 24 September 2020. Beyond this date, the Coronavirus Supplement will be available at $250 per fortnight 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. 

^ RETURN TO TOP

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

^ RETURN TO TOP

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 Food Act registrations and street trading permits for three months, halving rent for eligible tenants in Council owned buildings for three months 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

We will update the information available here as more detail becomes available. Please check back often.

^ RETURN TO TOP