COVID-19 – Melbourne back into Stage 3 restrictions

It’s safe to say we weren’t prepared for this but there are Government programs available to help.

For weeks in Victoria, it looked like we were on the brink of recovery and a return to some new state of normalcy. In the end, it looks like we are once again on the precipice of a public health disaster. On Tuesday 7 July Premier Daniel Andrews announced that Metropolitan Melbourne & the Mitchell Shire were back under Stage 3 restrictions, meaning that people could only leave their house for four reasons that applied back in April and May.

This is clearly a blow to the Victorian economy, particularly in the areas of tourism and hospitality, which were no doubt gearing up for an ease of restrictions, rather than an escalation.

Here we provide a reminder of the main Government programs available.

JobKeeper

The JobKeeper program is still running and it is important to note the following:

  • Employers/businesses who were not eligible at the start of restrictions can enter the program now if they meet eligibility criteria, including the decline in turnover tests.
  • The program is still announced to run until the end of September.
  • Support for the child care sector is being withdrawn this month.
  • The Government is due to give an economic update on 23 July and it is anticipated that will include an update on the status of JobKeeper and any changes to be made.

Victorian Government Lockdown Support Program

This was announced on 30 June 2020 to support the original specific postcodes in Victoria which were forced into Stage 3 lockdown before the rest of Metropolitan Melbourne.

The program as announced is open until 31 July and offers a $5,000 grant to businesses that:

  • Operate in one of the originally announced lockdown postcodes; and
  • Have employees; and
  • Are registered for GST; and
  • Have payroll of less than $3 million per annum; and
  • Had an ABN as at 16 March 2020; and
  • Have been engaged in carrying out the operation of the business in Victoria on 16 March 2020.

At this stage we do not know if this program will be extended to cover all of Metropolitan Melbourne. The State Government made the following statement about supporting other postcodes prior to the extended Stage 3 restrictions: We hope we don’t have to return to Stage 3 restrictions in any other postcodes. Additional financial support will be announced if or when additional postcodes need to return to Stage 3 restrictions.

The original 10 postcodes are: 3012, 3021, 3032, 3038, 3042, 3046, 3047, 3055, 3060, 3064.

Tourism Accommodation Support Program

Also announced on 30 June 2020, this is designed to support regional Victorian accommodation providers impacted by the original lockdown on the 10 postcodes mentioned above. The program offers financial support of up to $225 per booking per night.

This applies to bookings made before 3pm on 30 June 2020 for travel that was planned between 1 July 2020 and 29 July 2020. The following criteria need to be satisfied and proven:

  • A refund is made for 100% of the booking amount; and
  • No cancellation fee or other tariff was charged for cancellation; and
  • The cancelled booking was not re-booked; and
  • The booking is from a resident of a restricted postcode.

You can register your interest here.

Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme

As part of the original economic response to the pandemic, the Federal Government made several changes designed to support the flow of credit and provide easier access to loans to SME businesses (generally those with a turnover of under $50 million). The loans are intended to be unsecured, but 50% guaranteed by the Government, with a $250,000 limit and a 6 month repayment holiday. The loans are for up to three years.

The loans are provided by banks and financial institutions. Treasury has further details here.

JobSeeker

JobSeeker is available for people who are looking for work and aged between 22 and Age Pension Age. There are income and asset tests and if someone is in receipt of JobKeeper, they cannot access a JobSeeker payment.

Services Australia has a JobSeeker website here.

Early release of superannuation

People who are financially affected by the pandemic can access up to $10,000 of their superannuation between now and 24 September 2020. Applications for this are done through the myGov website.

To apply for early release of super you must satisfy at least one of the following:

  • You are unemployed.
  • You are eligible for JobSeeker, youth allowance for job seekers, parenting payments, special benefit or farm household allowance.
  • On or after 1 January 2020:
    • You were made redundant; or
    • Your working hours were reduced by 20% or more; or
    • You are a sole trader and your business was suspended or there was a reduction in your turnover of 20% or more.

It is important to note that superannuation should not be accessed simply for the purpose of re-contributing the amount to claim a tax deduction. Furthermore, early withdrawal of superannuation should be carefully considered, as taking $10,000 out now can have a big impact on your balance of retirement savings once you reach retirement age.

Treasury has a website for household support during COVID-19 here.

Please contact your Accru Melbourne representative on (03) 9835 8200 to assist with applications for any of these programs or if you would like to discuss any points within this article in more detail. We wish you all good health and best wishes over the next 6 weeks and beyond.

About the Author
Daniel Arnephy
Daniel is our technical expert for all your taxation needs. His diverse network and client base allows him to continuously build his knowledge and analyse every situation he is faced with an experienced outlook.
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