Expanded support measures must for extended lockdowns

Today’s expansion of support for employees and businesses will help address significant damage to Australia’s economy, following the announcement this morning of a four-week extension to NSW lockdowns, and the lockdown only just lifted across Victoria.

“These support packages have come not a moment too soon for millions of Australians,” acting CEO Jenny Lambert said.

“The Commonwealth, NSW and Victorian Governments have yet again demonstrated the benefit of a prompt and coordinated approach by boosting national disaster payments, lifting the business turnover threshold for cash payments and establishing hardship funds.

“ACCI has been very active about the need to increase disaster payments to $750 per week, as the extended nature of this lockdown means living costs are accumulating.

“The arrangement for NSW businesses, a cashflow scheme of up to $100,000 to firms with an annual turnover of between $75,000 and $250 million, is nuanced and targeted, with the thresholds set at reasonable levels. Businesses affected by the lockdown will be experiencing a fall in revenue far greater than 30%.”

In a survey undertaken by Business NSW at the beginning of the current lockdown, businesses indicated they only had enough cash reserves to last for five weeks.

“At the end of week four, and with announcement that the lockdown will extend for at least another four weeks, the situation is becoming critical for many businesses in NSW and is a huge setback for the national economy,” Ms Lambert said.

“The increased support is greatly needed. Rent, interest on loans, electricity, internet must still be paid – an impossible feat for many small and medium businesses with zero revenue. The longer the lockdown continues, the harder it is for businesses to cover these fixed costs.

“The co-funded arrangement in Victoria to support business continuity in the hospitality, fitness, catering and services sectors, as well as the small business hardship fund, also demonstrate how to best target those most in need.

“For businesses that are able to adapt to continue trading under the current restrictions and for those coming out of lockdown, it is essential that the Federal Government also look to reintroduce workplace flexibility measures from last year now that financial support has been updated. These enable businesses to continue to engage employees by reorganising rosters, duties and place of work.

“The COVID-19 Pandemic has demonstrated time and time again that business and their workers require consistent, collaborative and immediate action from governments. This targeted, agile and necessary support means our economy can bounce back strongly.”

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