The Queensland Government’s response to COVID-19
Like its Federal, State and Territory counterparts, the Queensland government has implemented a variety of measures in response to COVID-19 (some of which are discussed in our COVID-19 Resource Centre publications). These initiatives are intended to assist those experiencing financial hardship related to the coronavirus disruption. This article provides an overview of some of the support measures available to Queensland businesses, employees, landlords and tenants.
The Queensland government recognises that many businesses have been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak and is providing support. A visual representation and brief overview of the government’s support initiatives is available on the Queensland government Business Queensland website.
Business Assistance Finder
To assist businesses access the Queensland and Commonwealth support to which they are entitled, Business Queensland has developed an online checklist. By completing a short series of questions, the “Business Assistance Finder” can match business owners to the resources to which they are best suited.
Details of the online tool are located here and additional assistance is available to small business owners through the Small Business Hotline: 1300 654 687.
Payroll tax relief
On 24 March 2020, the Queensland government announced that it will be providing payroll tax relief. All Queensland businesses with Australian taxable wages that do not exceed $6.5 million may be entitled to:
- A payroll tax refund for November and December 2019;
- A ‘payroll tax holiday’ (meaning that no payroll tax is to be paid) from January to March 2020; and
- A deferral of all other payroll tax payments until the end of the 2020 calendar year.
Applications for the payroll refund and/or holiday must be submitted by 31 May 2020. More information and details about how to apply can be found here.
Power bill relief
The Queensland government is delivering a $100 million Power Bill Relief Package to provide businesses with a $500 electricity bill rebate. The rebate is available to sole traders, and small and medium enterprises which consume less than 100,000 kilowatt hours annually. The rebate is automatically applied to the electricity bills of eligible businesses.
Fee waivers for tourism and hospitality businesses
The Queensland government has announced that tourism and hospitality businesses can apply for exemptions from certain government fees and charges. These exemptions include:
- Application fees for some liquor licence variations;
- Registration renewal fees for Inbound Tour Operators; and
- Daily fees for commercial activity agreements and permits.
A rebate for Marina Charges and Passenger Levies as well as a deferral of Tourism Lease Rent Payments are also available. More information regarding eligibility and how to apply is available here.
Financial resilience webinars
In conjunction with the Queensland Department of Employment, Small Business and Training, TAFE Queensland is delivering a series of fully-funded financial resilience webinars. The goal of the webinars is to assist businesses to develop their financial capability and resilience. The webinars will cover business planning and cash flow management, and will provide expert tips and practical tools. Networking opportunities with other small businesses in the local area will also be available. Eligibility and further details can be found here.
Support from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry has developed a dedicated coronavirus webpage where the Chamber has published answers to frequently asked questions relating to the COVID-19 disruption. Free software, courses and other resources are also available as well as a dedicated telephone support line. The website also provides a series of links to available government support at both the State and Federal level.
The Queensland government has adopted various other measures to assist businesses affected by government restrictions implemented to control the spread of coronavirus including:
- Support for manufacturing and supply chain operations;
- A $3.66 million commercial fishing industry assistance package; and
- Market diversification and resilience grants of up to $50,000 for agriculture, fishing and food exporters.
Jobs Finder to match workers with jobs in priority sectors
The Queensland government Jobs Finder is available to Queenslanders whose employment has been affected by COVID-19. It allows eligible job seekers to register their location and skills so that more than 200 professional recruitment agencies can match them with suitable opportunities. The streamlined program will help connect workers with job opportunities in priority sectors and locations. The dedicated Jobs Finder website provides further details and information regarding registration.
Free online TAFE courses
TAFE Queensland is offering a range of online education and training to support individuals and businesses.
“Micro-credentials” are targeted courses to improve specific skills, help employees to maintain currency in their field and enhance career prospects for those without work. Digital badges are issued to those who complete the virtual courses. These badges are verifiable, enabling recipients to share evidence of their capability. Available courses include data analysis essentials, data security essentials, and communication technologies. More information, including how to enrol, is available at this link.
Free “online skill sets” are also available to job seekers and those whose work has otherwise been impacted by COVID-19. The training is available in a variety of areas and includes transport, farm labourer, and food service skill sets. Expressions of interest can be made here and TAFE Queensland will be in contact as soon as the specified skill set opens for enrolment.
Land tax relief for tenants
The Queensland government is providing $400 million in land tax relief. Property owners who own one or more leased properties (or properties available for lease) and meet the eligibility criteria may apply for a land tax rebate of 25 percent for the 2019–20 assessment year. These funds must be used to provide rent relief to struggling tenants, or to support the property owner’s expenses if the property is not presently leased. The rebate will only apply to residential and commercial landowners who apply before 30 June 2020 and commit to comply with certain leasing principles.
The government has also automatically deferred all payments of land tax for the 2020–21 assessment year by three months.
Residential Tenancies Practice Guide
The Queensland government has published a draft plain English guide to assist residential landlords and tenants to negotiate suitable arrangements in response to coronavirus-related challenges. The guide provides information about the rights of each party and tips for constructive discussions.
The guide also sets out the mandatory conciliation process facilitated by the Residential Tenancies Authority, in circumstances where parties are unable to reach an agreement independently. The COVID-19 rental conciliation eligibility tool is available to parties to confirm their eligibility and to gather the appropriate evidence in preparation for conciliation. The Residential Tenancies Helpline is also available to provide further information and guidance: 1800 497 161.
COVID-19 Rental Grants
The Queensland government is providing rental grants for Queenslanders who have lost their job due to the impacts of COVID-19 and who do not have access to other financial assistance. These grants are provided as a one-off payment of up to four weeks’ rent (to a maximum of $2000). The grant is paid directly to the landlord. Eligibility criteria and application details are available here.