The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments will jointly fund a new $400 million round of support packages to help Victoria's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) recover from the recent lockdown, including assistance for commercial property renters and landlords.
The news comes as the state emerges from its fifth COVID-19 lockdown with daily community case numbers back in the single digits with eight reported overnight, and comes hot on the heels of a $283 million stimulus announced a week ago.
The latest scheme, funded 50-50 and to be administered by the Victorian Government, includes a new $85 million Small Business COVID Hardship Fund and a $156 million Business Continuity Fund, as well as boosts for existing hospitality and alpine business support mechanisms.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Victorian businesses have borne the brunt of the heavy cost of lockdowns that kept the state and Australia safe.
"Together we can and we will recover from this," the Prime Minister says.
"Last year, Victoria and our nation faced heavy blows from COVID, but with the right supports in place our economy and businesses came back strongly and a million people returned to work.
"We will continue to do what is necessary to support Victorian businesses as we face the evolving challenges of COVID-19."
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says the package is all about protecting and growing jobs to support the state's economic recovery.
"With this funding we'll continue driving jobs and economic recovery here in Victoria, and for the nation," the Premier says.
The treasurers of both governments have also stressed the importance of these new measures to help Victorians on the pathway out of lockdown.
"No amount of support can make up for what business owners have experienced over the last year and half, but this latest package will support them as they reopen after this latest lockdown," Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, a Victorian himself, says.
"We're supporting Victorian businesses each step of the way as we continue to fight this pandemic," adds Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas.
"We know small businesses have been doing it tough and this new fund will give them the support they need to recover," Pallas says.
Further details on the new supports are as follows:
Business Continuity Fund
A $156 million Business Continuity Fund will be established to deliver $5,000 grants to up to around 30,000 businesses that remain impacted by capacity limits placed on businesses by necessary public health restrictions.
Twenty-four eligible sectors are covered by the fund including gyms, cafes, restaurants, catering services and hairdressers.
Recognising businesses located in the CBD will continue to be impacted due to restrictions on the number of staff allowed in office buildings, they will be eligible to receive an additional $2,000 recognising reduced foot traffic due to office density limits.
Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021
The Licenced Hospitality Venue Fund will receive a $70 million boost, with grants of up to $20,000 to be made available to support licensed venues as their operations continue to be impacted by current restrictions.
These grants recognise that larger venues depend more on dine-in and have higher operating costs, so need more support than smaller operations.
Again an additional $2,000 will also be made available to the business if it is located within the CBD.
To receive this funding, venues will need to have received or been eligible for the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021.
Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme and Landlord Hardship Fund
The package, to be fully funded by the Victorian Government, will deliver $80 million to provide support to landlords that provide rent relief to their tenants.
The Commercial Tenancies Relief Scheme will be reinstated to provide much needed rent relief to small to medium commercial tenants and their landlords with more details on the roll out to be provided by the Victorian Government soon.
A mediation service for tenants and landlords will further support fair tenancy negotiations.
Tenants and landlords will be encouraged to enter negotiations directly, with the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) available to provide mediation if parties cannot reach satisfactory agreement. Landlords will not be able to lock out or evict tenants without a determination from the VSBC.
Legislation will shortly be introduced to enact the Scheme, which will be applied from today to ensure rent relief can start immediately.
"As we emerge from lockdown, this is exactly the right time to provide relief for those businesses that need extra assistance to get back on their feet," says Minister for Small Business Jaala Pulford.
"We're calling for good-faith negotiations between tenants and landlords, and the hardship fund will mean landlords who find reasonable common ground will be supported."
Small Business COVID Hardship Fund
A new $85 million fund will be established to support small businesses who have not been eligible under existing business support funds.
Small businesses with a payroll of up to $10 million who have experienced a 70 per cent or greater reduction in revenue will be eligible for grants of up to $5,000.
Alpine Business Support Program
Alpine Business Support will receive a further $9.8 million to deliver grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 to 430 Alpine based businesses in recognition of restricted inter and intra-state travel during the peak winter season.
The funding also includes an additional $5 million support to alpine resort operators and management boards.
The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments continue to work together to support Victorians through this challenging time.
Updated at 11:54am AEST on 28 July 2021.
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