Victorian Government announces $3 billion coronavirus business support package

Melbourne’s CBD is among the hardest hit locations in the wake of COVID-19.
Melbourne’s CBD is among the hardest hit locations in the wake of COVID-19.

Victorian businesses will share in $3 billion worth of coronavirus financial assistance after the State Government announced the biggest financial support package in the state’s history.

More than $1.1 billion has been set aside for small and medium-sized businesses to help them stay afloat in the coming months, with Victoria still under stage three and four lockdowns as the state curbs the second wave of COVID-19.

The financial aid will come in the form of cash grants, tax relief and cashflow support, and is in addition to other support packages of around $3 billion that have already been announced this year.

Timeline: When can my business operate as stage four lockdowns ease?

Under the latest round of funding, Victorian businesses with payrolls up to $10 million will have their payroll tax deferred for the entire 2020-21 financial year and will be eligible for grants of $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000, depending on their size.

The state’s ailing hospitality industry will also receive a boost, with a $251 million Licensed Venue Fund to provide grands of between $10,000 and $30,000 to venues such as pubs, clubs, restaurants and hotels.

But in announcing the support on Sunday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews resisted calls to allow businesses to open sooner than was set out in the ‘roadmap’ to the easing of restrictions announced a week ago.

Under the current restrictions, thousands of businesses in regional areas are shuttered, despite there being no active coronavirus cases in their area.

“I understand that businesses are desperate, not just for profits, but for their people. They are desperate to open up,” Andrews said.

“But being opened up for a very short period of time is not the strategy. It is not the reward that Victorians are entitled to, given how much they’ve done, how much sacrifice they’ve made. All that has to count for something. In the meantime, we have to support those businesses to get to the other side.”

As part of the $3 billion package, the government will also spend $44 million helping businesses adapt to “COVID normal” conditions, including assistance accessing digital programs, online training and workshops.

The announcement comes as economists anticipate Victoria will record an unemployment rate of 11% in the final quarter of 2020, with many industries still shuttered under the current restrictions.

Most Victorian retail businesses and many services will remain closed until at least the third stage of restrictions easing on October 26, and will only be permitted to reopen if Victoria has reached an average of five cases per day over the previous 14 days.

Indoor dining at restaurants and hospitality venues will not begin until November 23, and only if there have been no new cases for 14 days.