Businesses large and small across Australia are facing a rocky and uncertain start to 2022, with the Omicron outbreak forcing thousands to shut down, this time with little assistance available from government. As business and welfare leaders call for the reinstatement of different forms of government assistance, we look at the small amount of financial support there is for businesses to claim in the different states of Australia.
As consumer spending slumps to lockdown levels, businesses are facing a perfect storm of problems which are shutting down operations indefinitely in thousands of workplaces nationally. Critical supply chain problems and product shortages generated by workers isolating, plus consumers staying at home to avoid crowds and not spending is forcing many enterprises to the brink. Where is the government support?
Business NSW CEO Daniel Hunter this week called for targeted government support for firms that are highly impacted.
According to a survey carried out by Business NSW, 40 per cent of 2,000 businesses surveyed said they did not have enough cash flow for the next three months.
Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive Wes Lambert told the Australian Financial Review recently: “As hospitality spending has plummeted in recent weeks, it’s critical on both the state and federal level to turn back on government stimulus including JobSaver, business grants, hospitality grants, waivers of payroll tax and retail lease changes.”
He said thousands of accommodation and food services businesses had been forced to temporarily close due to critical workforce shortages during the usually “lucrative” holiday season.
ANZ credit and debit card data published in January showed spending in Melbourne and Sydney had slumped to near levels typical of lockdown conditions.
Council of Small Business Organisations Australia chief executive Alexi Boyd also told the AFR it was a “perfect storm” for many firms due to a shortage of available workers and a lack of rapid antigen tests to help employees return to work with confidence.
“There [are] a lot of consumers who are not spending as they usually would because they are not feeling comfortable, and workers are not going to work because they have concerns about exposing colleagues,” Ms Boyd said.
Goldman Sachs estimates that between 24 and 76 million hours of work could be lost in January as workers isolate due to testing positive to COVID-19 or concerns they might have caught the virus.
The problems and business losses mount as more than 100,000 new daily cases of COVID-19 have forced workers and consumers into isolation. National Cabinet agreed last week to exempt more workers from COVID isolation but the picture for the future is uncertain.
Here we summarise what schemes exist currently, to assist businesses and their staff through this challenging period.
The federal government’s SME Recovery Loan Scheme (the Scheme) is designed to support the economic recovery and provide continued assistance to SMEs dealing with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The Scheme is enhancing lenders’ abilities to provide cheaper credit to otherwise viable SMEs for additional funding to get through the Coronavirus pandemic, recover and invest for the future. Under the 2022 Scheme expansion, loans are available from 1 January 2022 until 30 June 2022, with a Government guarantee of 50 per cent.
This program provides workers in all states and territories with a payment if they cannot earn an income because they have to self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone with COVID-19. Apply through the Services Australia website.
The NSW government has announced a $1 billion support package for businesses hit by the economic impact of the Omicron wave. The package, which targets businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million and a 40 per cent decline in turnover in January, also includes support with buying rapid antigen tests.
About $80 million will go to the performing arts sector to underwrite ticket sales. Applications open from mid-February and those eligible will be provided with a payment of 20 per cent of weekly payroll, up to $5,000 a week.
Event Saver Fund
The NSW government has announced a $43 million support package for major events in the state that are “cancelled or significantly disrupted” as a result of a COVID-19 public health order.
It will provide financial support to organisers of major events scheduled to be held between Wednesday 15 December 2021 and Saturday 31 December 2022 where an event is cancelled or significantly disrupted as a direct result of Public Health Orders (PHO). The cash support will allow organisers to pay suppliers, staff and recovery other costs,” and is intended to provide “the financial security and certainty to plan and deliver their future events.”
SME summer stock guarantee
If your hospitality or retail business must close for at least seven consecutive calendar days between 1 December 2021 and 31 January 2022 due to a NSW Government public health order, you may be eligible for the SME (small and medium enterprise) summer stock guarantee. Eligible businesses will be able to apply for either:
- a single grant payment of up to $20,000 to cover the loss of perishable stock, or
- a single grant payment of up to $10,000 to cover non-perishable stock.
The fund provides extra support to smaller landlords whose main source of income is impacted because they have provided rent relief to their tenant(s) and have not claimed land tax relief. If you are a small commercial or retail landlord with total taxable land holdings of less than $5 million and you have provided your tenant(s) with rental waivers, you may be eligible for a grant of up to $3,000 per month, per property.
Stay NSW Vouchers will help support accommodation providers in NSW impacted by COVID-19 and businesses across the state will be able to register from January 2022. Eligible accommodation providers with a physical location in the City of Sydney local government area can apply as well.
To ease the pressure on Victoria’s small and medium-sized businesses at this time, the Victorian Government has reintroduced the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme (the Scheme). This helps small and medium-sized businesses with an annual turnover of less than $50 million that have experienced a fall in turnover of more than 30 per cent during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Commercial Landlord Hardship Fund 3 provides grants to eligible small landlords who experience hardship as a result of waiving rent for their tenant(s) between 28 July 2021 and 15 January 2022 under the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme. Eligible small landlords can apply for a grant of up to $6000 per eligible tenancy. Information on employment assistance and subsidies such as the Jobs Victoria Fund are also available at Coronavirus.vic.gov.au/business-grants-and-support
Applications for the new Sector Development Grants opened online on 6 January for the social enterprise sector. The latest grants under the state government’s $8 million Social Enterprise Jobs Fund have been launched, offering organisations in the growing sector up to $200,000.
Some business support services are offered by the Queensland Government. If your business has been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be eligible for financial assistance or other types of relief. Use the tool on the Business covid assistance page to discover what support is available from the Queensland and Australian governments, plus Queensland local councils.
Tourism, hospitality and gym grant
Business hardship grant - December 2021
Major events grant - December 2021
The South Australian Government has unveiled a new financial support package for tourism, hospitality and fitness-related businesses that have been hit by the latest round of COVID restrictions. Most can claim $3,000 for employing businesses or $1,000 for non-employing businesses. Treasurer Rob Lucas said the government would offer grants of up to $22,000 for high turnover businesses in the affected sectors, and grants between $6000 and $8000 for smaller sized firms. Business Hardship Grants of up to $8000 will also be available to businesses outside of the hospitality, tourism and fitness sectors if they can demonstrate a turnover reduction of 50 per cent from December 27. Further, a “Major Events Support Grant” of between $25,000 to $100,000 will be on offer to event organisers who are forced to cancel or postpone an event between December 27 and January 27.
The COVID-19 Small Business Hardship Scheme will provide a one-off reimbursement for eligible businesses for costs incurred and paid with selected utilities (gas, water and electricity), commercial rates and commercial vehicle registrations up to the value of $10,000 per business. To be eligible, businesses must have an annual turnover of $30,000 to $2 million.
Emergency measures have been put in place to help commercial tenants and landlords impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
This program aims to provide eligible small businesses with access to specialist financial services and/or business support to assist in business recovery, transition, growth, or application of other strategies to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible applicants will receive a grant of between $750 and $1 500 to obtain financial or business guidance services from a suitably qualified specialist/consultant. Information on other schemes such as Event Ready 2021-22 and the Regional Hospitality Revival Fund can be found on the Business support packages webpage.
The program is designed to respond to the current and, future situations in which businesses are forced to close due to COVID-19 public health orders.
The program was established to provide immediate financial support to businesses during a lockdown period, for an amount of $1,000.
Information on other schemes such as the Tourism Survival Fund Round 2 can be found on the NT business recovery webpage.
Financial support packages were announced in December 2021 by the WA state government for small businesses impacted by the latest public health measures. Those eligible can receive a grant of up to $12,500 for businesses directly affected by public health measures.
In addition, a revamped Getting the show back on the Road support program is available for festivals and events required to be closed or cancelled over the restricted trading period.
Nightclubs forced to close are eligible for a one-off $20,000 grant and will be invited to apply directly to that program. Visit the Department of Local Government, Sport, Cultural Industries website for more information.
Already a member?
Login to view this content