The state government's new support package for lockdown-hit businesses has been welcomed in Ballarat but further long-term support is needed.
A total of $282.5 million will be made available to Victorian businesses and sole traders, meaning they can share in up to $484.3 million for the 12 days of the state's fifth lockdown.
Commerce Ballarat chief executive officer Jodie Gillett said any extra government assistance for Ballarat businesses was welcome but there needed to be a long-term plan.
She said she was concerned the new support package may not be enough for larger businesses which had accumulated 18 months of debt.
"All assistance is obviously welcomed. It's important that businesses need any assistance that they can be given but of course these amounts are only a small drop in the bucket of debt they've had to accumulate over the past 18 months," Ms Gillett said.
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"Most businesses that have been affected by the pandemic have been accumulating debt, whether it be through rates to local government or taxes to state government, and this debt is growing and growing and because of the continual closures, it's putting enormous pressure on these businesses.
"What we are really wanting to see is a long-term payment plan. We really need to be having the conversation around putting some long term plans in place for businesses to pay back the debt they are incurring."
Under the new support package, eligible Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund recipients will receive $4200, taking the total payment to $7200.
"For many, in particular the larger venues, that is a drop in the ocean compared to the costs they have for their venues," Ms Gillett said.
"The fact they are closed does not mean to say they don't owe rent, they don't owe rates.
There are so many costs associated with running a business that don't stop just because you're closed.Commerce Ballarat CEO Jodie Gillett
Ballarat Regional Trades and Labour Council secretary Brett Edgington said it was encouraging to see businesses not eligible for support in the previous round could reapply, and businesses that got through the last round would automatically be topped up for the lockdown extension.
But he said it was the first time he had seen businesses stand down staff without pay across the board.
During previous lockdowns businesses had continued to pay staff and work out leave arrangements, he said.
"Businesses that in the past had been very generous have finally, I think, stretched the limits of their capacity and stood people down with no pay," Mr Edgington said.
"The problem I have found too, and I have had a few calls on this one, is staff where businesses have said to them you can stand down with no pay or you can take some leave. These people have no balance leave left because they have used leave through the last lockdowns."
Mr Edgington said other feedback he was receiving from members related to the federal government's COVID-19 disaster support payments.
He said it was ludicrous the government was making Victorian business owners to wait until Friday to log on to access support for work lost during the first five days of lockdown.
Microbusinesses not registered for GST will be eligible for the COVID-19 disaster paymentof $600/$375 per seven-day period, with the Victorian government setting up a concierge service to help these businesses access this support.
"They could set up JobKeeper again and go back to the people who were on JobKeeper," Mr Edgington said.
He encouraged residents to go to the Victorian government's business website and check their eligibility and make sure they were applying for what they are entitled to.
Other state government support announced on Wednesday included:
- Eligible public events and public events suppliers will receive support of up to $25,000 and $10,000 respectively through an extension of the Impacted Public Events Support Program;
- A new round of the Live Performance Support programs, with funding of up to $7000 for presenters and up to $2000 for suppliers;
- A new round of the Sporting Clubs Grants Program will provide $2000 grants for community sport and active recreation organisations for events that have been unable to proceed or will have to be cancelled or postponed.
Industry support and recovery minister Martin Pakula said the government was "making sure the businesses most affected by the lockdown have a chance to emerge from it in decent shape, so they can continue to play their vital role as employers and drivers of Victoria's economy".
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