COVID-19 help for businesses: Rolling coverage of announcements

Welcome to our rolling coverage of the help for businesses, being released across Australia in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). This is not about the number of cases or who has it, we are focusing on providing information on things that will help businesses operate through and beyond the crisis, particularly stimulus measures. We have updated the format of the article so you can narrow down the most recent announcements that are applicable to you.

To see updates that are relevant Australia wide, click here.

Or, click on the links below to go to the section relevant to your state or territory. Packages announced by councils are listed under the relevant state or territory.

Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Northern Territory
Queensland
South Australia
Tasmania
Victoria
Western Australia

Thank you.

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Australia Wide

30/03/2020 Banks extend threshold for loan repayment deferrals to businesses with up to $10 million total debt (Australia wide)
Providing the Australian Competitor and Consumer Commission (ACCC) approves, all businesses who have less than $10 million in total debt (up from $3 million) will be able to access a six month deferral on principal and interest loan repayments.

There are some conditions that will need to be met:

    1. Businesses need to ‘opt-in’ by advising their bank/s that it has been affected by COVID-19
    2. Either the term of the loan will be extended or payments will increase after the deferral period
    3. The business was “current in terms of existing facilities 90 days prior to applying”
    4. If a commercial property landlord, that “they provide an undertaking to the bank that for the period of the interest capitalisation, they will not terminate leases or evict current tenants for rent arrears as a result of COVID-19.”

Other measures banks may be able to extend include waiving fees and charges, providing interest free periods, putting a stop on interest rate increases and consolidation of debt so repayments are more managable.

See the announcement at https://www.ausbanking.org.au/banks-to-help-commercial-landlords-who-help-tenants/.

There is a helpful list of FAQ’s available at https://www.ausbanking.org.au/campaigns/financial-hardship/.

26/03/2020 Fair Work to consider extending ordinary hours for Clerks Award (Australia wide)
Employers and unions have made a deal to help sustain employment by providing increased flexibility as to what times of day employees working from home can perform their work, without the employer becoming liable for extra penalty rates. This is specific to employees covered by the Clerks Award and is proposed to operate for three months.

Measures the deal proposes are:

    1. Increase ordinary hours to cover 6 am to 11 pm Monday to Friday, and 7am to 12.30 pm on Saturday – weekend penalty rates would still apply
    2. Reduce minimum shift for casuals and part timers working from home to 2 hours
    3. Allow employers to direct staff to take annual leave with only one week’s notice, or less if agreed with staff
    4. If 75% of the workforce agreed, permanent staff could be offered 75% of their usual hours, without the employer having to pay minimum weekly wages.

The concept has been submitted for urgent consideration by Fair Work. See more at https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/workplace/deal-struck-to-suspend-penalty-rates-for-home-workers-20200326-p54e4b.

24/03/2020 Federal Government legislates stimulus packages (Australia wide)
The economic stimulus packages announced on 12 March 2020 and 22 March 2020 have passed legislation and received royal assent. Most of the measures included have taken effect.

To see the measures for both businesses and individuals, see our article The Federal Government’s Stimulus Package to help Australia through COVID-19.

20/03/2020 Banks to provide six month business loan repayment relief package (Australia wide)
The Australian Banking Association is implementing measures to defer principal and interest repayments on small business loans for six months, in a move to help businesses remain employers and remain solvent. The deferral will be available to customers struggling as a result of COVID-19, who have less than $3 million in total debt owed. When the deferral period ends, the term of the loan will either be extended or the level of loan repayments will increase. Customers taking up the package will not be required to pay deferred interest or repayments in a lump sum.

These measures are expected to free up to $8 billion to support small businesses through the COVID-19 crisis.

Banks to participate in this plan include: AMP Bank, ANZ, Bank Australia, Bank of Queensland, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, CBA, HSBC, Macquarie Bank, NAB, Suncorp Bank and Westpac.

Australian Banking Association Chief Executive Anna Blight said “Banks are already reaching out to their customers to offer assistance and packages will start rolling out in full on Monday.”

For more see https://www.afr.com/companies/financial-services/banks-defer-loan-payments-for-six-months-20200320-p54c3d

19/03/2020 Reserve Bank of Australia reduces cash rate target to 0.25% (Australia wide)
One cut in a month wasn’t deemed enough – the Reserve Bank has just done it again. The cash rate is now at 0.25%.

Click here for the full announcement.

12/03/2020 Federal Government announces $17.6 billion economic stimulus package (Australia wide)
Key measures to support businesses announced are:

    1. Instant asset write-off threshold increase and eligibility extension
    2. Acceleration of depreciation deductions
    3. Credit of PAYG amounts withheld
    4. Apprentice and trainee wage subsidy
    5. Targeted support for the most impacted sectors, regions and communities
    6. Administrative relief on a case by case basis.

For more information on these measures please refer to our article The Federal Government’s Stimulus Package to help Australia through COVID-19.

Australian Capital Territory

20/03/2020 Australian Capital Territory announces $137 million economic survival package to support businesses (ACT only)
The ACT Government support package measures include:

    1. Small businesses who use less than 100 megawatts of electricity a year, will automatically receive a $750 rebate on their next electricity bill
    2. Automatic 12 month waiver of the Rideshare vehicle licences fee and government leased taxi plate fees, from 1 April 2020 (for prepaid fees, an additional 12 months credit will be applied at the next due date)
    3. Waiver of payroll tax for businesses whose activities have been prohibited, from April 2020 to September 2020 inclusive. Lodgements are still required, it is just payment that is waived. Application is required at https://www.revenue.act.gov.au/payroll-tax/waiver.
    4. Interest free deferral of 2020-21 payroll tax for businesses with Australia-wide wages up to $10 million, until 1 July 2022. Lodgements are still required, also you have to apply for the deferral to confirm eligibility.
    5. Automatic 12 month waiver of food business registration and on-licence liquor licencing fees for licenced venues, from 1 April 2020 (where already prepaid, an additional 12 months will be added to the licence)
    6. A commercial property owners rates rebate – commercial property owners with an average unimproved value of their property of $2 million or less, will automatically receive a credit of $2,622 on their 2019-20 general rates, in quarter four.
    7. Increased subsidies for apprenticeships and traineeships and other VET students, through Registered Training Organisations and Skills Canberra
    8. A Canberra Business Advice and Support Service – business owners can receive up to four hours of tailored advice and access online resources – book by calling 02 6297 3121.
    9. A Business Liasion Team to help businesses understand the support available to them from the ACT economic survival package – call 02 6205 0900
    10. $20 million to fast track infrastructure projects and maintenance, on government owned community, school and other buildings, or suburb maintenance.

For more information, see https://apps.treasury.act.gov.au/budget/covid-19-economic-survival-package/.

New South Wales

25/03/2020 City of Sydney announces $25 million package to support businesses (City of Sydney only)
The City of Sydney has announced a support package worth $25 million. Measures include:

    1. Waiver of fees for Health and Building compliance activities
    2. Waiver of standard contractual terms, return booking and banner fees, for people and organisations who had booked City of Sydney venues and are now restricted from proceeding with events
    3. Case-by-case review of rent for tenants in City of Sydney premises, in consultation with those tenants
    4. Flexible approach to parking and other infringements.

A second support package is also being developed.

See more at https://news.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/announcements/covid-19-support-for-business.

17/03/2020 NSW state government announced $2.3 billion health boost and economic stimulus package (NSW only)
Measures to support businesses and jobs include:

    1. Businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million will have payroll tax waived for three months
    2. Apart from the three month waiver, payroll tax will be effectively cut by raising the threshold limit to $1 million in 2020-21
    3. Waiver of a range of fees and charges for small businesses
    4. $250 million for employment of additional public infrastructure cleaners
    5. Over $250 million for maintenance of public assets
    6. $500 million for capital works and maintenance.

See more at https://www.nsw.gov.au/news/health-boost-and-economic-stimulus.

Northern Territory

18/03/2020 City of Darwin announces economic stimulus package (City of Darwin only)
The City of Darwin announced a stimulus package, designed to support businesses in Darwin and the local economy through the COVID-19 crisis. Measures include:

    1. Waiver of fees and charges for CBD on-street parking, for an initial 60 days from 18 March 2020
    2. Suspension of interest charges on outstanding rates, from 18 March 2020 to 30 June 2020
    3. Bringing forward major infrastructure projects
    4. Implementing a council purchasing policy that increases local content requirement to 30%.

See more at https://www.darwin.nt.gov.au/council/news-media/news/council-stimulus-package-to-support-darwin-economy.

17/03/2020 Northern Territory announced $65 million Jobs Rescue and Recovery package (NT only)
Measures include:

    1. $30 million home improvement scheme, where homeowners can receive a voucher between $4,000 and $6,000 as a contribution towards a project to undertaking physical improvements or repairs and maintenance to land or buildings. Homeowners must contribute at least $1,000 to get the $4,000 voucher or $2,000 to get the $6,000 voucher.
    2. $10,000 grants available to all businesses in the Territory to purchase goods or services to improve its efficiency and customer experience, by way of making a permanent physical improvement to their businesses land or building. If a business contributes $10,000, an additional $10,000 grant is available.
    3. $5 million for Immediate Work Grants of up to $100,000 to not-for-profit and community organisations to perform repairs, renovations and upgrades on their property and facilities, when engaging local businesses
    4. $5 million package to help cafes, restaurants and other venues install partitioning to meet new restrictions on indoor gatherings or to develop business online
    5. Two years of payroll tax corresponding to salaries and wages for a Territorian employed within the next twelve months, to be waived for eligible businesses.

See more at https://business.nt.gov.au/recovery

Queensland

20/03/2020 Update to Queensland payroll tax provision (QLD only)
Businesses registered for payroll tax in Queensland can now apply to defer their remaining payment obligations for the 2019-20 financial year, until 31 July 2020. Please note:

This update supersedes the update provided re QLD payroll tax on 17/03/2020.

For more see https://www.business.qld.gov.au/running-business/employing/payroll-tax/lodging/coronavirus-tax-relief.

17/03/2020 QLD state government to create a $500 million loan facility, plus payroll tax deferral extended (QLD only)
A new loan facility will offer loans of up to $250,000 to affected businesses to help ensure they can keep staff employed. Loans will be interest free for the first 12 months.

Information on the loans is expected to be available from the end of this week. See more at: http://www.qrida.qld.gov.au/current-programs/covid-19-business-support/queensland-covid19-jobs-support-scheme.

A previously announced measure to defer payroll tax return due dates is also now extended to apply to all Queensland businesses, regardless of size. All Queensland businesses now have until 3 August 2020 to lodge payroll tax returns relevant to the rest of the 2019-20 payroll tax year, including the February return period.

12/03/2020 Queensland opens applications for Market Diversification and Resilience Grants program (QLD only)
There are two new grants available to eligible Queensland businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19:

    1. Equipment grants of up to $7,500 towards new equipment purchases with maximum cost of $10,000. Applicants must contribute 25% of the total cost of new equipment.
    2. Project grants of up to $50,000 to use towards activities such as market evaluation, market visits, staff training, new equipment and boat modifications to meet market requirements. Applicants must contribute 50% of the total cost of the project or equipment – 25% of this must be in cash but the rest could be contributed in-kind (e.g. via reasonable salary costs for key personnel, or freight).

To be eligible, businesses must be in Queensland and operate in the agriculture industry, food and fishing export industry, a critical supply chain partner to businesses in those industries, or an industry organisation supporting exporters to build resilience through market diversification.

Note applications for project grants close Monday 20 April 2020.

For more details and application information go to https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industries/farms-fishing-forestry/agriculture/agribusiness/market-diversification-resilience-grants.

South Australia

23/03/2020 City of Adelaide announces $4 million package to support businesses (City of Adelaide only)
The City of Adelaide has announced a $4 million city support package. Measures include:

    1. Three months free rent for small business and community leases of council-owned buildings
    2. Three months free rent for Adelaide Central Market tenants
    3. Three month waiver of Rundle Mall Marketing Levy
    4. Flexible approach to on street parking regulations
    5. Facilitation of access to rates hardship provisions
    6. Estabishment of a Small Business Task Force, to collaborate with Business SA and other organisations in supporting city businesses.

See more at https://www.cityofadelaide.com.au/newsroom/four-million-dollar-city-support-package-announced/.

16/03/2020 South Australian government commits $50 million for Planning and Development Fund as part of their stimulus package (SA only)
The Planning and Development Fund has been extended as part of the stimulus package. Local councils can get a state government contribution of 50% to cover costs on shovel ready projects to improve access to quality public spaces and create new green open space. This is intended to support local jobs and businesses.

This is a key component of the South Australian governments $350 million stimulus package.

See https://www.premier.sa.gov.au/news/media-releases/news/$50-million-for-local-projects-to-create-local-jobs.

11/03/2020 South Australian government announces $350 million economic stimulus package (SA only)
This is to cover a range of measures but we are awaiting an announcement on what those will be.

See https://www.premier.sa.gov.au/news/media-releases/news/unprecedented-response-and-economic-stimulus-to-drive-sa-jobs,-economy-in-wake-of-bushfires,-coronavirus2.

Tasmania

17/03/2020 Tasmanian state government releases $420 million stimulus package (TAS only)
Measures include:

    1. $20 million dollar loan facility to assist businesses to buy equipment or restructure business operations. To be eligible, businesses must have a turnover of under $5 million and operate in the hospitality, tourism, seafood production or export sectors. The loans will have a 3 year interest free period.
    2. Waiver of payroll tax for businesses operating in hospitality, tourism, seafood production, for March, April, May and June 2020
    3. Businesses with payrolls of up to $5 million who have been impacted by COVID-19 can apply to have payroll tax waived for April, May and June 2020
    4. Payroll tax rebate for 12 months for businesses who employ a person/s aged 24 or under, in the period April to December 2020
    5. $50 million dollar loan facility to assist local governments to upgrade, renovate or maintain tourism and assets. The loans will have a 3 year interest free period.
    6. $50 million for public building maintenance
    7. The Tasmanian Government paying bills in 14 days (down from 30)
    8. $5,000 grant for businesses in the tourism, hospitality, building and construction industries who hire an apprentice or trainee, under the Small Business Grants program
    9. $80,000 to provide Human Resources and Industrial Relations assistance relevant to COVID-19 to businesses
    10. $100,000 to provide training in the tourism and hospitality sectors
    11. $1 million to promote local tourism this year
    12. Waiver of a range of fees and charges.

For more information see http://premier-dev.dpac.tas.gov.au/documents/FACT_SHEETS_-_STIMULUS_PACKAGES_Final-V2.0.pdf.

Victoria

30/03/2020 Applications now open for Business Support Fund grants of $10,000 (Victoria only)
Eligible Victorian businesses can now apply for a $10,000 grant from the Business Support Fund. To be eligible for the grant, a business must meet all of the following criteria:

    1. It has been “subject to closure or highly impacted by shutdown restrictions announced by the Victorian Government to date”
    2. It employs staff
    3. It has an annual turnover of more than $75,000
    4. It has an annual payroll of less than $650,000
    5. At 16 March 2020:
        1. It held an ABN (which it still holds), and
        2. Was operating in Victoria.

The grants can be used to:

    1. Meet business costs – e.g. utilities, salaries and rent
    2. Seek financial, legal or other advice as part of business continuity planning
    3. Undertake marketing and communications activities to develop the business
    4. Undertake other activities relating to the operation of the business.

For full details and to apply, go to https://www.business.vic.gov.au/support-for-your-business/grants-and-assistance/business-support-fund.

27/03/2020 City of Ballarat developing support for businesses (City of Ballarat only)
The City of Ballarat is developing measures to support businesses affected by COVID-19. It has been announced these will include:

    1. Automatic extension of selected permits, registrations and licences for six months
    2. Potentially bringing forward minor capital works projects
    3. Streamlining the planning permit assessment processes
    4. Providing information for businesses on how they can adapt their usual practices to the new circumstances
    5. An Economic Response Contact Centre to provide advice and support to business owners.

At this stage more specific details are not available, as the measures are still being finalised. However, Economic Response Contact Centre details are listed as 03 5320 5500 or economicdevelopment@ballarat.vic.gov.au, operating 8.30 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday. See https://www.ballarat.vic.gov.au/help-businesses.

Ballarat businesses and individuals may also be interested in The Business, Resource and Sharing Initiative. This is a Facebook group where businesses can post details on staff or resources that are not currently in use, that other businesses who are scaling up might be able to benefit from. See http://www.commerceballarat.com.au/cb_pages/coronavirus_covid-19_resources/ (scroll down to the Resource Connect header).

26/03/2020 City of Melbourne announces $5 million grants package and financial hardship policy (City of Melbourne only)
The City of Melbourne has announced $5 million in grants for small and medium businesses, to help them:

    1. Invest in online and e-commerce capabilities
    2. Undertake training and professional development
    3. Undertake capital works.

Grants available are:

    1. Dollar for dollar matching of investment up to $10,000 each, on approximately 200 capital works projects – for example investing in new equipment, upgrading shop fittings or purchasing IT and vehicles
    2. Up to $5,000 each, for 400 businesses to invest in their online and e-commerce activities – for example to buy required hardware and software, develop websites and e-commerce, create online content, undertake relevant training or undertake digital marketing
    3. Up to $2,000 each, for 500 businesses to provide training and professional development to staff, to enhance their ability to prepare for and recover from changing conditions.

Applications have opened and can be made at https://melbourne.smartygrants.com.au/QRB2020.

Also, businesses experiencing genuine financial hardship in paying rates, fees and charges, can call the City of Melbourne COVID-19 Business Concierge Hotline on 03 9658 9658 (select option 1) to discuss their circumstances and options. Lord Mayer Sally Capp said “we have fast-tracked our policy to provide options to defer, reduce or waive rates and charges levied on a property – depending on the severity of the financial impact.”

See more at https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/news-and-media/Pages/Grants-open-for-businesses-affected-by-COVID-19.aspx.

23/03/2020 Victoria implements Stage 1 shutdown of non-essential activity from midday (Victoria only)
A raft of exercise, entertainment and sporting venues are to close from midday, along with places of workship. Restaurants and cafes are to be restricted to offering delivery and takeaway services only. Compliance with these measures will be monitored and enforced by police.

See https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/statement-from-the-premier-33/

21/03/2020 Victoria announces $1.7 billion economic survival package (Victoria only)
Measures include:

    1. State Government commitment to pay all outstanding supplier invoices within 5 days
    2. $500 million allocated to establish a Business Support Fund to support the most impacted sectors including accommodation, arts and entertainment, hospitality, retail and tourism
    3. $500 million allocated to establish a Working for Victoria Fund, aimed at helping those who have lost their jobs find new employment
    4. Liquor licensing fees for impacted venues and small businesses will be waived for 2020
    5. Eligible small businesses will be able to defer 2020 land tax payments
    6. Commercial tenants of government buildings will be able to apply for rent relief
    7. Small and medium businesses with payrolls under $3 million will still be required to lodge payroll tax returns, however:
        1. Payment is not required for remaining lodgements for the 2019-20 financial year
        2. They will receive full payroll tax refunds for payroll tax already paid in relation to the 2019-20 financial year – the State Revenue Office will directly contact eligible businesses about this and begin processing refunds next week
        3. Be able to defer payroll tax relating to July, August and September 2020 until 1 January 2021

For more information see https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/economic-survival-package-to-support-businesses-and-jobs/ and https://www.sro.vic.gov.au/coronavirus.

19/03/2020 Victorian government launches business hotline (Victoria only)
Businesses can access information on dealing with COVID-19 through calling Business Victoria on 13 22 15 or go to https://www.business.vic.gov.au/disputes-disasters-and-succession-planning/illness-and-business-management-plan/dealing-with-coronavirus.

The purpose is to help “businesses of all sizes get the facts and connect them with support services.”

We haven’t seen a stimulus package from the Victorian state government yet.

18/03/2020 City of Melbourne announces economic stimulus package in response to COVID-19 (City of Melbourne only)
City of Melbourne Councillors have endorsed a $10 million package to support city businesses. Measures in this package include:

    1. Holding a virtual Business Support Summit
    2. Suspension of fees for street trading permits and Food Act registrations for three months
    3. Rent reduction of 50% for eligible tenants of council buildings for three months
    4. Redeploying approximately 200 impacted casual cleaning staff, to enhance city cleanliness and presentation
    5. Development of a Rates Hardship Policy this month.

See more at https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/news-and-media/Pages/Economic-stimulus-package-in-response-to-COVID-19.aspx

Western Australia

16/03/2020 WA state government announced $607 million stimulus package (WA only)
Measures to support businesses and jobs include:

    1. Businesses with payrolls between $1 million and $4 million will receive a one off grant of $17,500
    2. Payroll tax will be effectively cut by raising the threshold limit to $1 million in 2020-21
    3. Impacted small and medium businesses, who pay less than $7.5 million in taxable wages across Australia, can apply to defer payment of their 2019-20 payroll tax until 21/07/2020
    4. $250 million for employment of additional public infrastructure cleaners
    5. Over $250 million for maintenance of public assets
    6. $500 million for capital works and maintenance.

See more at https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/McGowan/2020/03/COVID-19-economic-response-Relief-for-businesses-and-households.aspx.

The information contained on this website has been provided as general advice only.  The contents have been prepared without taking account of your personal objectives, financial situation or needs.  You should, before you make any decision regarding any information, strategies or products mentioned on this website, consult your own financial advisor to consider whether that is appropriate having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

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