Industry group welcomes $3 billion support package for Victorian businesses

Image of Brighton bathing boxes in Melbourne
Metropolitan Melbourne will reopen slowly from the Stage 4 lockdown. (Photo: Unsplash)

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called the $3 billion support package that the Andrews Government announced on Sunday a “lifeline” for the state’s businesses, which are facing several more weeks of lockdown before they can reopen to the public.

The chamber’s CEO Paul Guerra said the package “will provide hope for many businesses that may have been wondering how they will get through the coming weeks of continued restrictions”.

The package includes cash grants, tax relief and cashflow support for small and medium businesses, including an $822 million injection into the Business Support Fund to deliver grants of $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 to around 75,000 eligible businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million.

This is the government’s third injection into the Business Support Fund. It has already delivered $1.47 billion in grants to more than 108,000 businesses.

In addition, a new dedicated fund for the hospitality sector has been established to deliver $251 million in grants of between $10,000 and $30,000 to licenced venues of all shapes and sizes. And grants of up to $20,000 have been set aside for alpine resorts to help cover their resort fees, saving them a combined $4.3 million.

The government is also providing grants up to $20,000 to local business groups and chambers of commerce, so they can help their members adapt to operating in ‘Covid normal’.

Besides the cash grants, the government has deferred payroll tax in FY21 for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million, providing a much-needed $1.7 billion cashflow boost, and extended $137 million in waivers and deferrals of other charges, such as liquor licence fees, the congestion levy and the increases to the landfill levy.

It has also brought forward the 50 per cent stamp duty discount for commercial and industrial property across all of regional Victoria to January 1, 2021, and waived the Vacant Residential Land Tax for properties that are vacant in 2020.

In addition, the government will spend $44 million to equip businesses with the support they need to adapt to the new ‘Covid normal’ after restrictions lift, including $20 million for small businesses to ramp up their online sales. Another $15.7 million will be spent on a program to boost exports.

In addition to this support, the government has launched Click for Vic, a website promoting local restaurants, cafes, cellar doors, retail stores and other businesses still accepting online orders. It will now spend $8.5 million on marketing and advertising.

“This is what the business community has been calling for, a forward-looking announcement that provides confidence in being able to manage without cashflow for now, and how businesses can begin to reskill and recover when the virus is under control,” Guerra said.

However, Guerra also reiterated the need to get to ‘Covid normal’ as soon as possible.

“Our collective drive must be to get to [Covid normal] as soon as possible leaving no person, no worker and no business behind,” he said.

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other businesses associations, such as the Australian Retailers Association, AI Group and the Business Council of Australia have largely criticised the roadmap to ease coronavirus restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne as too slow and costly for businesses.