Another $400m in support on its way for Victorian businesses

Another $400m in support on its way for Victorian businesses

Around 95,000 Victorian businesses will be eligible to receive $2,800 payments under round three of the Business Costs Assistance Program (BCAP), after State and Federal Governments agreed to a co-funding scheme worth $400 million.

Pakula told a press conference this morning the payments would be made automatically to registered businesses, but those that hadn't taken part previously could apply with applications open until next week.

"Last night after the lockdown was confirmed, my department put together a $400 million package to support more than 100,000 Victorian businesses. Treasurer Pallas then spoke to Treasurer Frydenberg in order to seek Commonwealth 50 per cent co-contribution," Pakula said.

"Very pleasingly, the Commonwealth has agreed to that. I spoke to Treasurer Frydenberg about a half an hour ago.

"We are very grateful for that support. It means that this package can be in the vicinity of $400 million for a seven-day lockdown, which is above and beyond what we've been able to do in the past."

He said the new funding added to $950 million in support paid to businesses through the May, June and July restriction periods.

He noted a wide variety of businesses would be eligible for the BCAP support, including gyms, cafes, restaurants, caterers, hairdressers, dance and swim schools, tourism businesses and events businesses.

The new funding will also go towards the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund (LHVF), which will also be paid automatically based on the patron capacity of recipients: $5,000 for venues that hold up to 199 people; $10,000 for those that host between 200 and 499; and $20,000 for venues with a capacity of 500 or greater.

Minister Pakula added the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund, previously offering $5,000 grants with total funding worth $85 million, would be lifted to $8,000 grants with a total funding of around $139 million.

"That will be based on demonstration of turnover reduction of 70 per cent," he said.

There will be another round of support for the Alpine Business Support Program, with grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 that will support 430 Alpine businesses.

"I'd finally indicate that in regards to the Commonwealth Disaster Payments, we are waiting on a hotspot declaration from the Commonwealth - we believe that that will apply to Greater Melbourne, and those payments are up to $450 from eight to 20 hours, that's $750 for over 20 hours, administered through Services Australia," he said.

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said the Victorian Government has provided more than $7 billion in direct economic support for Victorian businesses since the start of the pandemic.

"Every step of the way since this global pandemic began, Victoria has not shirked its responsibility to back our business community this is immediate and targeted support right now, when it is needed most," the Victorian Treasurer said.

Parliament passes rent relief scheme

The announcement comes after a commercial rent relief scheme, flagged on Tuesday, passed in Victorian Parliament yesterday.

Businesses that have experienced a loss in turnover of more than 30 per cent during the pandemic are now guaranteed to receive rent reductions, while separate support will be provided to landlords.

Tenants' percentage drop in turnover will determine the amount of initial rent relief available to the tenant.

For example, a business with a turnover of 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels can only be charged 40 per cent of its rent. Of the balance, at least half must be waived, with the remainder to be deferred.

The Government is also ensuring new businesses don't miss out on the assistance. Special arrangements will be in place to assess the turnover impacts for new businesses which were not operating in 2019.

To help landlords that are doing the right thing by eligible tenants, the Government will provide land tax relief of up to 25 per cent, in addition to any previous relief, at an estimated cost of $100 million.

Small landlords who can demonstrate acute hardship will be eligible to apply for payments as part of a $20 million hardship fund.

"This passing of this legislation provides peace of mind for small businesses who are struggling to pay the rent, giving them the security they need," Minister for Small Business Jaala Pulford said.

"Tenants and landlords have already been working together really well and we'd encourage them to continue to do so to achieve fair outcomes."

COVID-19 update

There are now 84 exposure sites in Victoria but the state's COVID Commander Jeroen Weimar expects the number will grow throughout the day, after six new locally acquired cases were reported for yesterday.

Three of those cases are linked to the Hobsons Bay community outbreak and the other three are connected to the Maribyrnong cluster. 

"A further six people remain in hospital with two in ICU (intensive care units). Both of those are on a ventilator, and we send our best wishes for a quick recovery for those people," Health Minister Martin Foley said.

"There were 29,631 tests yesterday particularly as we ramp up our targeted testing in response to the new cases."

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has listed two flights as tier one exposure sites as a positive case travelled From Sydney to Launceston via Melbourne, including VA808 and VA1364, both on 2 August.

"If you were on these flights, you need to isolate for 14 days, and of course to get tested immediately," Foley said.

"My advice is that the positive case entered Melbourne on a valid transit permit. He was screened and escorted to his transiting flight by the public health compliance team, all wearing appropriate PPE for their protection. These staff now are having to be furloughed and are being tested and isolated as a precaution.

"My understanding is that the person from Sydney was detained in Launceston, tested as part of their arrangements, sent back to Sydney, and his positive case became apparent after he had already left Tasmania on a direct flight to Sydney."

He said Victoria was now in a "precarious position" when it comes to where this particular series of outbreaks are at the moment.

"It is in all of our hands to continue to work together to work with our public health teams to get on top of and ahead of this particular outbreak," Foley said.

Updated at 12:07pm AEST on 6 August 2021.

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