Coronavirus Victoria: $534m package for struggling businesses

Coronavirus Victoria: $534m package for struggling businesses

Struggling Victorian businesses entering a second round of lockdown restrictions have been given a $534 million boost by the State Government.

Treasurer Tim Pallas made the announcement in Melbourne on Friday morning and said it took the State Government’s total to $6 billion in coronavirus support to the community.

Mr Pallas said the half-a-billion-dollar package included a cash grant for struggling businesses, mental health support for business owners and relief for tourism operators who could no longer rely on Melbourne-based visitors.

He said tailored and targeted advice would also be available for businesses to help them stay afloat and then bounce back on the other side of the restrictions.

The package also includes a $30 million fund for the hardest-hit businesses in hospitality and the night-time economy and a $26 million investment in mental health support and mentoring for business owners, operators and sole traders “doing it tough because of the pandemic”.

A $20 million fund will also be dedicated specifically for CBD businesses to help reduce the impact of the Government’s efforts to enforce social distancing and keep people out of the city.

Mr Pallas said businesses would also benefit from extended and expanded payroll tax deferral.

He said the $534 million support package had been developed in close consultation with the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Hotels Association.

“This a testing time for business, it is a testing time for us all,” Mr Pallas said.

“What’s critically important is that the wellbeing of Victorians and Victorian industry and business is first and foremost in our thinking during these difficult times.

“That is our driving focus and that will be … where we put our continuing support over the weeks to come. This won't happen overnight and this virus will be with us for a very long period to come, largely because we don’t have a vaccine and it will mean that we will have to continue our efforts.

“We‘ll expand the business support fund and provide more than 80,000 eligible businesses with a $5000 grant for dedicated support to get them through the crisis and avoid collapse.”

Mr Pallas said the Government were expecting unemployment to peak at 11 per cent and gross state product to decline by about 14 per cent, with billions of dollars written off the expected size of the Victorian economy.

“That effectively means the economy will take about two years, maybe even three, to get back to the point where we expected it to be before the coronavirus event occurred,” he said.

Tourism Minister Martin Pakula said there would be marketing support for regional tourism businesses.

“We know how difficult this is for business and the focus of the Government over the next 40 days is to get these numbers down as low as possible so these businesses can return to something approaching normal,” he said.

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