COVID-19 Government rescue measures

What government support measures mean for your business.

Updated 21 October 2020, 4:15pm

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

Business Support Fund

Reflecting the Victorian Chamber’s advocacy on behalf of members, a third round of Business Support Fund grants of between $10,000 to $20,000 for small and medium sized employing businesses impacted by restrictions in Victoria were announced on 13 September. The amount a business is eligible to receive will be dependent on their annual payroll. To be eligible, businesses must be employing people, participating in the JobKeeper Payment scheme, be registered with WorkSafe, be registered for GST and have an annual payroll of less than $10 million. For a full list of eligibility criteria and details of the application process, visit Business Victoria

Sole Trader Support Fund

Announced on 14 September, 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, heavily restricted or not opening under the Second Step of the Roadmap. Further information will be available shortly from Business Victoria.

Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package

Announced on 14 September, $58 million will go towards grants of up to $5,000 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 will be available shortly from Business Victoria.

Melbourne City Recovery Fund

Announced on 14 September, grants will be provided to city businesses, helping them to move outdoors with COVIDSafe events and rebuild the vibrant CBD.

Small and medium businesses will be able apply for $30 million worth of grants to pay for equipment, convert spaces like rooftops and courtyards into hospitality zones and remodel internal layouts to allow for the better flow of patrons.

$30 million will support COVIDSafe events and cultural activities to attract visitors back to the CBD when it’s safe to do so. Further information will be available shortly 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 now open. 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

Through this program, Victorians dealing with the challenges of running a small business can get the mental health support they need to navigate through the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Key elements of the program include:

  • accredited mental health training delivered by St John Ambulance to business chambers of commerce and business networks across Victoria, to boost mental health capabilities within local business communities
  • the Partners in Wellbeing telephone hotline - 1300 375 330. This free support service will be extended to 10pm every night to provide business owners experiencing stress free access to one-on-one wellbeing support, business advisers and financial counsellors.

Roll out of these support services is planned to begin in August and is expected to continue until 2022, with demand and future conditions set to guide further services.

Additional program information will be released soon with details available on the Business Victoria website.

Business recovery and resilience mentoring

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is partnering with the Victorian Government to deliver a Business Recovery and Resilience Mentoring Program to help small businesses navigate the economic challenges posed by restrictions to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Through this program, 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 Central Business District (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

On 13 September, the Victorian Government announced a $20 million voucher program to assist sole traders and small businesses in building their digital capability. Further information will be available shortly from Business Victoria.

Export support

On 13 September, the Victorian Government announced a $15.7 million package to help Victorian exporters get their products to market and establish new trade channels. Further information will be available shortly from Business Victoria.

Unresolved applications for the 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

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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 $1500 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 

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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.

On 13 September, the Victorian Government announced $41 million to bring forward the 50% stamp duty discount for commercial and industrial property for all of Regional Victoria, $33 million to defer the planned increase in the landfill levy for six months, $30 million to waive 25% of the Congestion Levy this year, with the outstanding balance deferred, $27 million in liquor license fee waivers for 2021 and $6 million to waive Vacant Residential Land Tax for vacancies in 2020. Further information will be available shortly from Business Victoria.

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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.

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Support for pubs, clubs and restaurants

On 13 September, the Victorian Government announced grants of up to $30,000 for licensed pubs, clubs, hotels, bars, restaurants and reception centres, will be available based on their venue capacity and location. Further information will be available shortly from Business Victoria.

The Night-time Business Economy Support Initiative, provides commercial rental relief for licensed businesses impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic 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.

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

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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 - Edition 3

 

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% 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.

Legacy Employer - Fair Work Flexibilities Guide - Edition 3

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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 9

Download our JobKeeper 1.0 Employee Eligibility Changes Info Sheet

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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

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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.

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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. 

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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

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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.

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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

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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. 

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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

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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.

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