Victorian government announces support package for businesses hit by lockdown

Businesses that incurred costs as a direct result of the lockdown could be eligible for help.

Businesses that incurred costs as a direct result of the lockdown could be eligible for help. Photo: ABC News/Barrie Pullen

More than 50,000 Victorian businesses will be eligible for cash payments as part of a new package targeting industries that were hit by the recent “circuit breaker” lockdown.

The five-day lockdown was introduced on February 12 over concerns the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport outbreak could worsen if it wasn’t brought under control quickly.

Many businesses that were expecting a bumper weekend due to Valentines Day and the Lunar New Year had to close due to the stage four restrictions, losing thousands of dollars in trade or throwing out excess food.

The Victorian government on Sunday announced a $143 million “Circuit Breaker Support Package” designed to help businesses, including sole traders, that lost income as a result of the five-day lockdown.

Restaurants, florists, musicians, artists, wedding celebrants, the events sector and accommodation providers will be among the industries receiving support, Victorian Trade Minister Martin Pakula said.

“They are the businesses that were most profoundly affected by that lockdown and they are the businesses that we are primarily targeting in this support,” he said.

One-off payments and travel vouchers expanded

The package includes $92 million for a program that will provide grants of $2000 to eligible small businesses, including sole traders.

Applications for the Business Costs Assistance Program open tomorrow, and are open to businesses with an annual payroll up to $3 million that incurred costs as a result of the five-day lockdown.

Licensed hospitality venues that have previously been recipients of the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund program will receive an automatic $3000 payment, Mr Pakula said.

Businesses which get that payment will not be eligible for the Business Costs Assistance Program.

A program that provided support to regional Victorian accommodation businesses is also getting re-booted.

Under the new $16.2 million Victorian Accommodation Support Program, accommodation providers whose bookings were cancelled due to the lockdown could be eligible for payments.

Businesses need to demonstrate they saw cancelled bookings between February 12 and February 17 to be eligible.

Accommodation providers with 10 or fewer cancelled nights will get $2250, and those with 11 or more cancellations will get $4500.

A popular regional travel voucher program, which ran out of vouchers in under 30 minutes last time it went live, will also be expanded to include Metropolitan Melbourne.

The Melbourne Travel Voucher Scheme will be launched soon and provide 40,000 vouchers to support travel in metropolitan areas, while an extra 10,000 vouchers will be allocated to regional areas.

Employment Minister Jaala Pulford said the measures were about providing tailored support to specific businesses affected by the lockdown.

“The weekend that circuit breaker coincided with was a weekend that’s often really busy,” she said.

“Mid-summer, great weather for weddings, Valentines Day, Lunar New Year, lots of occasions where people could be expecting to get together and do wonderful things with their loved ones.”

Package welcome but events industry calls for more support

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said last weekend was “devastating for business” and welcomed the support package.

“We think it strikes the right balance in terms of getting support to those industries that need it the most,” he said.

However, he said businesses needed certainty, to help them plan if other lockdowns were announced in the future.

“We understand the virus continues to move, but what we want to see is the parameters that are going to be in place, so that businesses understand that if we start to see cases climb, then we can start to get prepared for a level of lockdown,” he said.

Save Victorian Events, a campaign that started in July 2020, said the events industry was facing a “catastrophe” and needed more targeted support.

“A snap survey overnight has shown this [lockdown] has already caused many events — as far out as September — to be cancelled or moved interstate because the little confidence in holding events in Victoria that was left is now gone,” the group said in a statement.

“We expect this to get worse as the week progresses.”


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