As communities in Coolangatta and the Tweed Shire continue to struggle with strict restrictions for crossing the border, the Queensland Government has established a pop-up business hub to let residents know about available support schemes.
With no end in sight until lockdowns are eased in NSW, and amidst an impasse between the two state governments over the establishment of a border bubble or a temporary redrawing of the border further south, Queensland's Minister for Employment and Small Business Di Farmer visited Coolangatta last week to take stock of the situation.
"We know that COVID-19 is having a huge impact on small businesses, and for those close to the border it’s especially difficult right now," Minister Farmer said.
"I went to Coolangatta last week to speak with small businesses and listen to what they’re going through.
"A number of businesses weren’t aware of the support that’s available, so we’ve organised for Business Queensland to set up a pop-up Support Hub and proactively go and speak to small businesses in the area."
She said staff from Business Queensland have been in Coolangatta since Monday, and the Business Support Hub formally opened today.
"Their job is to make sure local businesses can get access to every single bit of government support for which they’re eligible," the Minister said.
"They’re going door to door to businesses too, to make sure people know the Hub is there.
"We will also have someone there from the Queensland Small Business Commissioner’s office, who will be able to help with leasing issues."
The Hub is at Kirra Hill Community and Cultural Centre on Garrick Street.
Minister for Communities and Housing Leeanne Enoch said a range of face-to-face support was available at the Hub to help small business owners navigate the current challenges, including access to information, referrals, and available grants.
"We want to make sure that small businesses have access to the support and information they need,” Minister Enoch said.
"As part of this service, counsellors from Lifeline are on hand to talk to those who need emotional support or financial counselling services.
"A representative from Centrelink is also at the hub to provide information and assist with applications for Australian Government grants and financial aid.
Minister for Youth Affairs and Member for Gaven, Meaghan Scanlon, said a range of support was available, including grants of up to $30,000 and a nearly $50 million package for tourism and hospitality businesses.
"That’s on top of more than 400 $5,000 Business Basics grants recently announced for small businesses on the Gold Coast, as well as major infrastructure projects creating jobs like the M1 upgrade to the border,” Minister Scanlon said.
"Coolangatta and Tweed Heads might be in different states, but they’re essentially the same community. Businesses have staff and shops - and even family - either side of the border.
"Talking to businesses, the fall in foot traffic and the staffing and business management issues stemming from the border are the number one issue right now."
Scanlon said she was hearing the message "loud and clear" about how hard the impacts of the border closure have been.
"I want businesses to know we are working hard to find a solution," she said.
"We reached out to the New South Wales government a while ago and were told no, but now the Queensland Deputy Police Commissioner and the New South Wales Border Commissioner are meeting to see how the two governments can work together so we can reduce the impact on the community.
"I really welcome this change and want us all to work together so we can help those small businesses on the border doing it tough, while still protecting the health of Queenslanders."
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