With most of Victoria officially in lockdown in an attempt to stop the second wave of COVID-19, the impact on many businesses based across metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire will be significant over the next 6 weeks and beyond. As a way to soften the blow for the businesses that have only recently started to reopen, the Victorian government is providing a large financial support package.
It is estimated that over 80,000 businesses will be eligible for a new one-off grant of $5,000. For a business to be eligible, it must be located in a lockdown affected area; a participant in the JobKeeper scheme; registered with Worksafe on 30 June 2020; have an annual payroll of less than $3m in 2019-20 on an ungrouped basis; and be registered for GST.
Many businesses will also benefit from an extended and expanded payroll tax deferral. Eligible businesses with payrolls of up to $10m can defer their liabilities for the first half of the 2020-21 financial year. Whilst no further details have been provided, this payroll tax deferral is likely to be different to the payroll tax waiver implemented by the government during the 2019-21 financial year. This means that businesses that choose this option will merely be deferring their liabilities until a later date.
In addition to the above, the government has also launched a $30m dedicated fund for the state’s night-time economy to support the hardest hit businesses in hospitality. As well as a $20m CBD Business Support Fund especially for small businesses in the Melbourne CBD that are faced with a large and sustained shock to their trading environment.
Both of these funds appear to be ongoing programs to help businesses over the longer term rather than the immediate shock from lockdown. Of course, the lockdown doesn’t just affect businesses in the metropolitan areas, regional tourism businesses is also expected to be heavily affected by the closing of borders and Victorians unable to travel locally. Hence, the financial support package also includes $40m for regional tourism businesses to cover the cost of refunds, as well as marketing campaigns to boost region to region visitation.
Eligible businesses will be able to claim up to $225 per night for up to 5 nights for each and every room cancelled due to the lockdown, provided they refund the bookings in full. To be eligible, accommodation providers must have an ABN and be in one of the 11 Victorian Regional Tourism Regions (48 regional and rural councils plus a number of interface councils in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula; Victoria’s six ski resorts; Gabo, French, Lady Julia Percy Islands). Providers will also have to be “bookable” to the general public and advertised via an online booking platform, accommodation agencies, a registered real estate agent or a publicly available location subject to certain conditions.