The Victorian Government’s response to COVID-19
In addition to various measures implemented by the Federal Government in response to COVID-19 (some of which are covered in our COVID-19 Resource Centre publications), state and territory governments have announced a range of initiatives intended to help businesses and individuals dealing with financial hardship caused by the coronavirus disruption. This article discusses support measures which are being provided by the Victorian Government, split into the categories of businesses, employees, and tenancy.
Support fund for small to medium sized businesses
The Victorian Government has announced a $500 million fund to support small businesses that have been adversely affected by the restrictions imposed by the government in response to COVID-19. Generally, the fund will be used to provide $10,000 grants to businesses that:
- employ staff;
- have been highly impacted by government mandated shutdowns or restrictions;
- have a turnover of more than $75,000; and
- have payroll of less than $650,000.
Payroll tax refund
The Victorian Government will refund payroll tax for the 2019/2020 financial year for businesses with annual Victorian taxable wages of up to $3 million. Under this initiative, the government has paid back more than $384 million in payroll tax refunds to over 17,000 businesses. Similar initiatives have been implemented in NSW, Queensland, Tasmania, and WA. In Victoria, eligible businesses will also be able to defer payment of payroll tax incurred for the first three months of the 2020/2021 financial year until January 2021. The State Revenue Office is directly contacting eligible businesses about the refund, however businesses can also apply online. More information is available here.
City of Melbourne grants
The City of Melbourne is offering $5 million in grants for small to medium-sized businesses and non-profit organisations to invest in online capabilities in response to COVID-19. Grants must be put towards investing in e-commerce activities, training and professional development, and/or capital works projects to adapt to changing conditions. The grants are intended to help businesses based in Melbourne to innovate and boost their digital capabilities. More information is available on the City of Melbourne website, and businesses can apply for the grant here. The City of Melbourne has also announced $2 million in financial assistance for artists and small organisations to develop new digital works and performances.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce COVID-19 Employer’s Guide
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has released guidelines for employers regarding managing COVID-19 in the workplace. The guidelines set out the legal duties of employers to care for the health and safety of their employees, and practical measures for how employers can comply with these obligations. The guidelines also deal with how an employer should respond if an employee is suffering from COVID-19 symptoms, and provide information regarding the Federal Government’s JobKeeper initiative. The guide is available here.
Other measures adopted by the Victorian Government to assist businesses dealing with COVID-19 include:
- Liquor licence fees have been waived for 2020.
- The Victorian Government will fast track outstanding supplier invoices and ensure that they are paid within 10 business days.
- New planning rules have been approved which exempt “essential” businesses (such as healthcare and groceries businesses) from existing noise restrictions.
“Working for Victoria” fund
As a part of a broader initiative to secure work for Victorians who are now unemployed as a result of COVID-19, the state government has announced the “Working for Victoria” $500 million fund. This fund has been used to secure government jobs for thousands of people who have lost their jobs, with roles being offered with employers such as Foodbank. Assistance under the fund is available to workers who have recently lost their job or casual workers who no longer have sufficient shifts, including international students and temporary residents. Workers, and businesses who may be interested in hiring employees under the initiative, can register here. More information is available in the government’s press release.
WorkSafe Victoria guidelines
In light of social distancing directives from the Federal Government and state government, more Victorians are working from home than ever before. In light of this, WorkSafe Victoria has released new guidelines for affected employees which set out duties employees have to take care of their own health, and the health of those who may be affected by their actions, and also outlines practical measures employees can take to ensure that their home office environment is suitable. The guidelines are available here.
The Victorian Government has announced a scheme intended to alleviate financial hardship faced by commercial landlords and tenants. This scheme involves a six-month moratorium on commercial tenancy evictions for non-payment of rent for small and medium businesses, a freeze on rent increases for commercial tenants, and a mediation service for commercial tenancy disputes. The government has announced that it will “work directly with” commercial tenants in its government buildings who may be eligible for rent relief. More information is available here.
Together with measures related to commercial tenancies, the Victorian Government has also announced a broader $500 million package aimed at giving certainty to residential tenants and landlords struggling with the current economic disruption. Landlords who provide rent relief will be eligible for a 25% discount on their land tax, with any remaining land tax deferred until March 2021. Evictions are banned for residential tenancies for six months (including for the non-payment of rent), except in limited circumstances. Rent increases are also prohibited for six months. The state government has also announced plans to create an $80 million rental assistance fund for renters facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. More details are available here.
Land tax deferral
In addition, payment of land tax for eligible land owners (those that have at least one non-residential property and total taxable landholdings below $1 million) has been deferred until 2021.