COVID-19 Government rescue measures

What government support measures mean for your business.

Updated 26 May 2020, 1.45pm

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.

 

 

Federal: Morrison Government support

JobKeeper Payment

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 6

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

Concessional loans

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 subsidy

Small businesses with fewer than 20 workers will receive 50% of an apprentice or trainee’s wage. For each apprentice or trainee, the Government will provide up to $7,000 in wage assistance per quarter up to a maximum of $21,000. The apprentice or trainee must have been in training with a small business as at 1 March 2020.

The wage subsidy will also be open to employers of any size that re-employ someone who loses their position as a result of the coronavirus downturn.

Register now by contacting Apprenticeship Support Australia or another Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) provider. Final claims for payment must be lodged by 31 December 2020.

For more information visit Supporting Apprentices and Trainees or contact an AASN provider such as Apprenticeship Support Australia to discuss.

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

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

Income support

Expanded criteria and waiting period exemptions are providing access to income support (Centrelink payments) for those affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. A new coronavirus supplement of $550 per fortnight will commence from 27 April 2020.

You can now register your intention to claim meaning your payment will be backdated.

See our Income support 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

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Victoria: Andrews Government support

The Victorian economic survival and jobs package complements federal government support for business with tax refunds and deferrals, rent relief, new payment terms, a new business support fund and the removal of liquor licensing fees. 

The State Budget will be deferred until later this year. There may also be further announcements in the coming days and weeks.

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.

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. 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.

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.

Business Support Fund

Funding of $10,000 per business is available to small businesses that employ staff, have a turnover of more than $75,000 and a payroll of less than $650,000 to help them survive the impacts of coronavirus and keep people in work.

The Victorian Government recently announced an expansion to the eligibility criteria for the fund that addresses many of the concerns raised with the Chamber. Please see the announcement here.

The criteria for the fund will be expanded to include businesses with a wages bill less than the payroll tax threshold of $650,000 who are participating in the Commonwealth JobKeeper program, regardless of the sector they operate in.

However, eligibility for the fund will not be expanded to include sole traders, who are covered by JobKeeper.

Businesses who applied for Business Support Fund payments but were initially not eligible based on their sector classification will be contacted by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and do not have to submit a new application.

Businesses that have not previously applied for a grant due to their sector classification are encouraged to make an application.

You will need to provide a copy of your most recent Business Activity Statement (BAS). APPLY NOW or see Business Support Fund FAQs.

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

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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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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Contact us

For general enquiries, please call us or contact us online.

03 8662 5333

info@victorianchamber.com.au

Contact details

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