The Australian peak body for retailers has welcomed the reintroduction of a rent relief scheme for small businesses in Victoria following a similar move made by New South Wales last week.
The Victorian Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme was reintroduced over the weekend, meaning rent negotiation rights are again available through to 15 March for businesses with an annual turnover of $10 million.
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) says measures like the Victorian scheme are imperative for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to survive the ongoing impact of Omicron, as well as the associated supply chain costs and staff shortages.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra said given the wide-scale impacts of Omicron, he would like to see this extended to small businesses in every state and territory with a threshold of up to $50 million turnover as was previously in place.
“We’ve entered unchartered territory with Omicron with small businesses struggling to keep their doors open due to tens of thousands of daily staff isolations and ever-rising supply chain costs. This is taking an enormous toll on the retail workforce and small businesses who’ve had to limit their trading hours or close altogether,” Zahra said.
“Rent is a significant pain point for small businesses, and we thank the Victorian government on its leadership during this difficult period. Victoria has consistently offered these leasing protections through the pandemic and that has saved the lives of many hundreds of small businesses.
“Whilst we would like to see the scheme restored to its original 50 million turnover level, this measure will certainly go a long way in helping small businesses survive.”
Every other jurisdiction in Australia saw their small business rent relief schemes expire in 2021, except for the Northern Territory which never had a formal program. Instead, small business tenants in the top end were encouraged to negotiate in good faith with landlords.
“We have not seen the pandemic impact the sector on this scale and for the first-time retailers are having to navigate these impacts with almost no support from governments,” Zahra said.
“It’s clear that the impacts of Omicron will be ongoing and that targeted support packages will be needed from governments to support small businesses through this unprecedented challenge.”
Updated at 9.31am AEDT on 17 January 2022.
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