A survey of businesses in Brimbank has found that more than 90 per cent have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Council-wide survey of 171 businesses has so far found that 92 per cent of those surveyed, many of which employ less than 20 people, experienced loss of revenue and customers. They also faced a reduction in staff and an impact to operating costs and supply chains.
Brimbank City Council Mayor Cr Georgina Papafotiou said while the results were not surprising given the lengthy restrictions in place affecting community and businesses, including in hospitality, they were particularly concerning in an area with high levels of socio-economic disadvantage.
The survey results capture the past two months, prior to the current increased restrictions and new lockdown across metropolitan Melbourne, which is expected to exacerbate issues already being experienced for businesses.
‘We expect the return to Stage 3 restrictions requiring people to stay at home, and requiring businesses to shift what they are doing yet again, to cause further hardship,’ Cr Papafotiou said.
Council’s Economic Development Unit is working with local businesses to understand the support and assistance required from Government to operate throughout the pandemic. Some of the preferred and suggested support identified in the survey results included:
- 69% of responses require tax incentives
- 52% of responses require support resources
- 51% of responses require reduced or interest free loans
Cr Papafotiou said Council was also working through the newly formed COVID-19 Brimbank Response and Recovery Business Taskforce to understand the impact of the coronavirus and Government-mandated lockdowns, and to determine key local business advocacy priorities. She said members of the Taskforce had indicated that the majority of businesses have been impacted though the extent depended on whether businesses have been able to continue trading and to what degree.
Brimbank’s business community is particularly vulnerable to a prolonged pandemic and Council has set up the Brimbank Business Response and Recovery Taskforce to provide advice on supporting local businesses, particularly in recovery.
‘Some businesses have had no income or significantly reduced income during the restrictions and there are concerns about their ability to pay ongoing business expenses, particularly when deferred payments come due,’ she said.
‘The Taskforce has highlighted a range of COVID-19 business issues including the importance of JobKeeper and its continuation beyond the September deadline; difficulties associated with negotiating commercial tenancy relief; and the need to improve communications with businesses that are not online and where English is not a first language.
‘This information, both anecdotal and evidence-based, is vital in being able to represent to Government the large impact of the pandemic, and the support we will require when we can start to look at a recovery.’
Brimbank Council has a range of measures in place to support local businesses including dedicated business support assistance and advice, online business development program, access to a Small Business Mentoring Service and Brimbank.Localised a business-to-business platform aiming to support and help business to connect locally and increase their network.
Council has welcomed the support provided to local businesses by the Federal and State governments, including through State Government with more than $6.1 million in payroll tax refunds for 198 local businesses to date, and where 3,840 local businesses have received $10,000 one off payment through the State’s Business Support Fund. But the introduction of further restrictions across Brimbank needs to be complemented with further local support, in addition to the $5,000 additional Business Support Fund grants now available to impacted businesses.
Council has called on the Government to consider the establishment of a COVID-19 State Government and Brimbank Council Taskforce, which would oversee:
- A health and wellbeing working group to administer increased testing, resources, materials and support across our community to mitigate the spread of virus
- The development of a dedicated COVID-19 health, wellbeing and economic package for Brimbank to respond and recover from the pandemic, that will support health outcomes, address socio-economic issues and create jobs
Mayor Papafotiou said a dedicated support package would help Council not only combat the spread of Coronavirus, but also help support our local economy through economic development opportunities including increased support for local businesses, investment into shovel ready local projects, social procurement, support for local workers, and investment attraction. All of this will be vital as we work to rebuild and restrengthen local businesses and the community impacted by increased restrictions.
‘We’ll continue to work with and support our local businesses and we will also continue to represent to the State Government their needs, and the needs of the community as we look to come out of this devastating pandemic and work to recover in both an economic and wellbeing sense,’ she said.