$3bn rescue package for Victorian business

Premier Daniel Andrews at COVID-19 media conference
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THE Victorian government unveiled a $3 billion support package in cash grants and tax relief including stamp duty discount for commercial and industrial property, as well as pledged to support sole traders.

Premier Daniel Andrews said this package takes the government’s total business support to over $6 billion.

Over $1.1 billion in cash grants will support small and medium sized businesses including $822 million as part of the third round of the Business Support Fund, in addition to the $1.47 billion from the first two rounds of Business Support Fund grants.

Around 78,000 businesses are expected to qualify in the third round, similar to the first round’s 77,600 and significantly higher than 30,400 businesses in the second round because the government tightened the eligibility criteria. In Business Support Fund 3, eligible businesses with payrolls up to $10 million will receive grants of $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 depending on their size.

Minister for Industry Support and Recovery Martin Pakula said Business Support Fund 3 will be targeted.

“So hospitality and retail, accommodation and tourism operators, hair and beauty services, repairs, maintenance, domestic cleaning, outdoor entertainment, passenger vehicles etc,” Pakula said.

For the hospitality sector, businesses such as bars, restaurants, pubs, clubs, hotels and reception centres, the government will establish a $251 million Licenced Venue Fund, to provide grants of between $10,000 and $30,000 for licenced venues. Liquor license fees will also be waived for 2021.

Victoria’s alpine resorts can apply for grants of up to $20,000 to help cover their resort fees as part of $4.3 million package.

The government will also partner with local business groups and chambers of commerce, with grants of up to $20,000 so they can help their members adapt and find their feet in a COVID Normal world.

To date, almost 20,000 businesses have received payroll tax refunds more than $540 million, the government will defer payroll tax for businesses with payrolls up to $10 million for the FY21.

For the property sector, the government will bring forward the 50% stamp duty discount for commercial and industrial property across all of regional Victoria to 1 January 2021 and the Vacant Residential Land Tax will be waived for properties that are vacant in 2020.

The government indicated that support will be forthcoming for 412,000 sole traders and will be announced in the coming days.

“We are putting the finishing touches on some support for sole traders… Primary income support for many sole traders has been provided by the Commonwealth through JobKeeper and otherwise.

“We have been focusing our efforts on businesses that employ people but the sole trader support that will be announced in the coming days is a recognition of the challenges that many sole traders have faced in covering overheads,” Pakula said.

This is the first time the government has addressed direct support for sole traders after initially rejecting to extend the Business Support Fund. According to Small Business Australia, which represents five million people in the sector, as many as 250,000 sole traders and small businesses that were ineligible for the JobKeeper subsidy missed out on the Victorian government’s Business Support Fund.

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell and Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp previously called on the state government to provide more support for small businesses.

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra has welcomed the additional support, which he said is a signal of confidence and will provide hope for many businesses that may have been wondering how they will get through the coming weeks of continued restrictions.

“It will be a lifeline for those businesses in desperate need that are not likely to be able to open for some time under the current government roadmap. Significantly, there is targeted support for the hospitality sector, along with support for accommodation and tourism, outdoor event venues, passenger vehicles and hair and beauty businesses.

“This is what the business community has been calling for, a forward-looking announcement that provides confidence in being able to manage without cashflow for now, and how businesses can begin to reskill and recover when the virus is under control.

“Our collective drive must be to get to COVID-normal as soon as possible leaving no person, no worker and no business behind.” Guerra said.

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