Your Updated COVID-19 Small Business Support Services Guide
Business| By Bridget de Maine | August 25, 2020
Small business support packages have changed since the COVID-19 response moved to Stage 4 restrictions in Victoria. Here’s our guide to the newest initiatives.
Unpredictability is part and parcel of being a small business owner but in the age of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and it’s constantly shifting restrictions, there’s even more uncertainty about where your business is headed. Both Federal and State governments have implemented a range of business support services to assist with doing business during this stressful time, many of which have been revised since the introduction of Stage 4 business restrictions in response to the COVID surge in Melbourne. Here’s your comprehensive guide to business support services that could be available to you.
What Assistance Is Directly Available to Small Business Owners?
The most up-to-date information regarding support for Australian businesses can be found at the Federal Government’s COVID-19 (coronavirus) support page.
Eligible businesses could receive an additional tax-free cash flow boost of an amount between $20,000 and $100,000 when activity statements are lodged for the months of June to September 2020, in addition to those offered in quarters 3 and 4 of last financial year (2019-2020). The payment will be delivered through credits in the activity statement system when business activity statements are lodged, meaning there’s no application process necessary.
An increase to the instant asset write-off threshold to $150,000 is also still available for eligible purchases, up until December 2020.
What Support Services Could Help Me Keep My Staff?
The JobKeeper payment, originally implemented by the Federal government to assist small business owners (including sole traders, partnerships, trusts, not-for-profits and charities) to keep their current staff employed until September 2020, has now been extended until 28 March 2021. Reassessment for eligibility for JobKeeper will now be necessary after 28 September 2020 and again after 4 January 2021.
The original rate of $1500 per employee per fortnight will be lowered to $1200 per fortnight from 28 September 2020, then again to $1000 per fortnight from 4 January 2021. Also beginning 28 September 2020, lower payment rates will be implemented for employees who work less than 20 hours a week.
The apprentice wage subsidy, which can account for 50% of a trainee employee’s wage, has also been extended until March 2021.
Is There Assistance for My Business’s Running Costs?
Initial additional support services for businesses struggling to pay energy bills have now been extended until 31 October 2020. Also, if your business is part of the agriculture and seafood export industry, help for the transport of your produce through the International Freight Assistance Mechanism has been extended until the end of the year.
Could I Get Help With My Rent?
Small businesses and SMEs affected by COVID-19 should check out the Federal government’s relief for commercial tenants initiative in which the government introduced a mandatory code of conduct for small to medium sized commercial tenancies (including retail, office and industrial) that are eligible for JobKeeper. At the time of publishing, it is expected that these measures will remain in place due to the rise of coronavirus cases in Melbourne.
Are There State Variations in Small Businesses Support?
- Under the new Business Support Fund introduced by the Victorian government following a second wave of coronavirus, Victorian businesses impacted by Stage 3 and 4 restrictions could be eligible for up to $10,000 in additional grants (which will be automatically distributed if you received the original Business Support Fund grant.)
- CBD-based small hospitality businesses can apply for up to $15,000 worth of grants, depending on eligibility.
- If you have not received funding through the Business Support Fund Expansion program, you could apply for the Hospitality Business Grant Program, which offers assorted grants, including a one-off $25,000 to eligible food service businesses with a payroll of $3-$10 million.
- Businesses with wages up to $3 million could be eligible for a full refund and waiver of payroll tax for the 2019-2020 financial year for and a deferral of payroll tax for the first three months of the current financial year.
New South Wales
- The NSW government has a free concierge service to offer assistance to businesses impacted by coronavirus.
- They have also increased the payroll tax-free threshold from $900,000 to $1 million from 1 July 2020 and are deferring payments for 3-6 months.
- If you are renting space in NSW government-owned properties, and you are an SME with less than 20 employees, you could be eligible for rent deferral for six months.
- There is a 12-month waiver of various registration fees (including liquor licences, trade and construction licences, tattooist licences and more) for applications lodged by April 2021.
- Eligible businesses could apply for deferral of payroll tax for the 2020 calendar year.
- The Queensland government has set up the Small Business COVID-19 Adaption Grant Program, which offers up to $10,000 to assist with pivoting SMEs to be more sustainable and safe in a COVID-environment. Funding for this program for South East Queensland has been exhausted but, at time of publication, regional businesses could still apply.
- There could be entitlement to a $500 rebate on electricity bills for businesses consuming less than 100,000 kilowatt hours per year.
- A waiver or rebate of several fees and lease payments may apply to such charges as liquor licenses, tourism-based operations, marina charges and commercial activity permits.
Australian Capital Territory
- A one-off payroll tax waiver for ACT small businesses on the prohibited business activity list, such as beauty therapists and gyms, exists until September 2020.
- Eligible SME businesses (with less than $10 million in wages) can apply for interest-free deferral of 2020-2021 payroll tax until 1 July 2022.
- There is a 12-month waiver of various license and registration fees, such as taxi plate fees and food business registration and liquor licensing fees for licensed venues, as well as off-licensed venues with a gross liquor purchase of less than $3 million.
- Eligible cafes and restaurants could apply for a one-off $1000 rebate on electricity bills for the first quarter of 2020-2021 financial year. Applications need to be made before 30 September 2020.
- The WA government will automatically grant $17,500 to eligible small businesses.
- The Small Business Development Corporation blog lists the latest information on state support for small business.
- SMEs in the city and North Adelaide could apply for the City of Adelaide Outdoor Activation Grant for funding of up to 80% of $10,000 to incorporate and enhance the area adjacent to their business for better social distancing.
- Waivers and reductions of liquor licence fees could be made for the 2020-2021 financial year for eligible businesses.
- There is a payroll tax waiver for the entire 2019-2020 financial year for small businesses in the hospitality, tourism and seafood industries.
- If you get in quick, you could apply for the second round of the COVID-19 Small Business Continuity Grant program, offering $750 to eligible businesses to get professional advice on business continuity (closes 7 September 2020).
- The Business Vehicle Registration Relief Package provides a registration freeze for light and heavy vehicles not being used, and taxis, as well as heavy vehicle registration and motor tax waivers.
- Business Tasmania (1800 440 026 or email@example.com,gov.au) offers free advice and support through Enterprise Centres Tasmania.
- Until 30 September, small businesses with a turnover less than $50 million and a reduction in turnover of 30% or more due to COVID-19 can apply for the Business Hardship Package, which could entitle eligible SMEs to all kinds of benefits, including reducing utilities bills and reducing or deferring rates.
- Look out for the Small Business Rebound and Adaption Grant, set to open 1 September 2020.