Victoria releases $534m support package with cash grants, payroll tax deferral

Victoria releases $534m support package with cash grants, payroll tax deferral

The lockdown of greater Melbourne has today led the state government to announce $534 million worth of wide-reaching support measures, including $5,000 grants to businesses that are forced to close.

Around 80,000 eligible businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million will be able to defer their payroll tax liabilities for the first half of FY21, while targeted measures have been slated for hospitality operators and businesses in the CBD.

Treasurer Tim Pallas (pictured) says the package includes $30 million dedicated fund for the nighttime and hospitality sectors, drafted in conjunction with the Australian Hotels Association (AHA), a $20 million fund for the CBD, and $36 million towards a business advisory and wellbeing program including mental health and mentoring aid.

Marketing support will also be given to tourism operators when the time comes to promote more movement around the state, but in the meantime support measures previously slated for tourism will now be expanded to include operators hit by cancellations from residents in new lockdown areas.

The package includes a $40 million capped fund for regional tourism. 

Minister for Jobs Martin Pakula said there were some large restaurants, pubs and hospitality venues that did not benefit from the initial tranche of support from the government, which was why an industry-specific package was put forward.

"In terms of CBD support, I had a conversation this morning with the Lord Mayor - the fact is that the CBD has been in some respects uniquely hit by that stay-at-home directives have particularly kept people away from the CBD," Minister Pakula said.

"The absence of foot traffic in the CBD has meant that many of the businesses in the city and Docklands and South Bank have been particularly affected by the restrictions that have been imposed on Victorians.

Today's package includes a $36 million business advisory and wellbeing program, of which $10 million will be worked on collaboratively between the Small Business Commission and the Victorian Chamber. The balance will go towards mental health support.

Treasurer Pallas said the unemployment rate was likely to peak at 11 per cent, up from the current 6.9 per cent, and gross state product (GSP) will likely fall by 14 per cent on previous forecast.

"That is a profound reduction and it will take some years before we see that level of economic activity come back," he said.

The Treasurer said it was important to do more than simply "provide platitudes of support" to the community, but rather offer real, tangible efforts which will be ongoing. 

"I assure you this will not be the last that you hear of support from this government as we go through these difficult times," he said.

"We will of course, wait to see what comes out of the federal government's efforts on the 23rd of July when they indicate what will happen to the refinements to the JobKeeper program.

"That of course will inform us going forward as to what further additional support might be required."

Pallas took stock of the traumatic and very difficult time people are facing, and apologised on behalf of the state government.

"As a Treasurer, we don't normally take great joy in providing funds that essentially go directly to our capacity to manage efficient budgets, but what's more important, what's critically important, is that the wellbeing of Victorians and Victorian industry and business is first and foremost in our thinking in dealing with these difficult times."

Updated at 11:07am AEST on 10 July 2020.

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