Last month Victoria was forced into a 7-day lockdown as a consequence of a fresh outbreak of community transmitted cases of covid-19.

The Victorian Government has stated that it is especially trying to help businesses most affected this time around, which includes operators in the hospitality, events, retail and creative industries by giving them additional targeted support.

In response, the Victorian Government has announced a $250.7 million Circuit Breaker Business Support Package to provide financial assistance for up to 90,000 Victorian businesses that have been impacted by the restrictions that will run until 11:59pm on Thursday, 3rd June.

Victorian businesses are going about their business of doing the right thing by shutting their doors during the latest covid-19 lockdown to keep Victorians safe. There is no denying however, it is another slap in the back for many struggling to keep their businesses afloat and financially viable.

The package features three initiatives for small to medium-sized businesses and sole traders. 

The circuit-breaker action will keep Victorians safe and protect businesses and jobs but it’s not easy for businesses to shut their doors and put their plans on hold.

This support aims to help businesses pay the bills and maintain their workforce as best they can, as we work together to get through this challenge.

The $190.01 million second round of the Business Costs Assistance Program will offer grants of $2,500 for eligible businesses directly impacted by the circuit-breaker industry restrictions. These businesses include; restaurants and cafes, event suppliers, accommodation providers and non-essential retailers. 

A $40.7 million new round of the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund will provide businesses holding an eligible liquor licence and food certificate with a $3,500 grant per premises.  

A further allocation of $20 million will be dedicated to supporting operators in the events industry who have incurred losses due to the circuit-breaker restrictions, with more details to be provided shortly.

The Victorian Government commended businesses across the state by saying that “Victorian businesses have shown amazing resilience and determination over the past 15 months, and this package will provide meaningful support where it is most needed.”

The Victorian Government says that operators eligible for the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund payment will be contacted directly by email in coming days.

Another brand-new package builds on more than $6 billion in direct economic support from the state government to help businesses get through the pandemic, including through three rounds of the Business Support Fund.  

Earlier this year Victoria was forced into a five-day lockdown during the month of February. During this lockdown a state government introduced a $143 million Circuit Breaker Support Package to help more than 50,000 Victorian businesses – including restaurants, confectioners, hairdressers, florists, accommodation providers, musicians and performers – who incurred costs such as the loss of cancelled gigs, perishable goods, and foregone trading. The package contains four initiatives targeted at businesses, including small and micro businesses.

The lockdown began on Friday 12th February. The recent lockdown coincided with Valentine’s Day, The Australian Open and Lunar New Year. Valentine Day’s and Lunar New Year are up there with some of the busiest days of the year for florists and restaurants. Restaurant menu items and flowers that were destined to be sold unfortunately had to go to waste. The Australian Open continued to proceed without crowds for 5 days. The influx of people travelling to Melbourne to watch the Australian Open each year has a huge impact on driving sales in retail stores and cafes across Melbourne.

As a result of the snap lockdown an Italian restaurant in Melbourne’s inner suburbs can reveal that it lost somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000 dollars in turnover. Apart from not being able to have customers dine in their venue for five days, they also lost money on dairy products and seafood that had to be thrown out. The loss off stock has a flow on effect into the following week, as restaurants are no longer placing food orders to get new stock due to their businesses closure. However, when the restaurant re-opens they are likely to be low on stock and will have to wait for new food supplies to arrive. This means that the business may not have all the ingredients required to make all their menu items upon re-opening.

Furthermore, last month The Victorian Ombudsman announced that 12,000 businesses across the state might now be eligible to receive retrospective covid-19 grants of up to $10,0000 after it was discovered that there were flaws in the grant applicant process that unfairly penalised human error.  

As a result of the probe, the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions has said that it would now reopen the Business Support Fund for eligible businesses owners who were denied the $10,000 grant.  

Some of the businesses had their applications get stuck in draft mode beyond the deadline, some businesses were rejected due to minor typos in their application. This led to 1,100 complaints which prompted Victorian ombudsman’s investigation.   

Although the fund had good intentions, the ombudsman’s investigation discovered that the government had failed to deliver and irrationally denied some of the applications, refusing to reconsider their decisions even after the ombudsman ordered them to do so. 

The purpose of the fund was admirable and the way it was intended to support a large number of vulnerable businesses that had been impacted by lockdowns and covid-19 restrictions. However, administering it with inflexibly undermined its very purpose. Consequently, the people were forgotten in the process. 

The outcome of the investigation discovered that the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions failed to empathise with the addition stressed imposed upon business owners during the covid-19 pandemic, and neglected to take into consideration the varying levels of language and computer proficiency.

Post Author: Craig Dangar

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