The federal government will spend $5.7 million over the next two years to give more aspiring and micro business owners access to income support, mentoring and training programs within the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS).
Included in Tuesday’s budget papers, the funding will go towards extending the eligibility for the New Business Assistance program within the NEIS so that individuals who wish to start their own business can access the program on a part-time basis while also working part-time, studying, or managing caring responsibilities.
The extended eligibility will also give operators of existing micro businesses — those with one to four employees — access to the same support services if their business has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NEIS has been operating for more than 35 years and offers support and training for new small business owners and young people who want to start their own business.
The New Business Assistance aspect of the scheme offers mentoring and accredited training, as well as income allowances and rent assistance to eligible participants over the age of 18 and legally able to work in Australia.
The federal government pledged to invest $89 million in expanding the program back in 2016, and by early-2017 had added thousands of more places to the program.
There are now 8,600 places available in the program each year.
From October 15, individuals who are working 25 hours per week or less will be able to access the NEIS to help start a business, under the changes to eligibility.
Then, from December 7, the program will be extended to existing micro business owners who have been affected by COVID-19.
According to the NEIS website, these business owners will be able to access the program if “they need help to keep their business running or refocus their operations to meet new areas of demand”.
New and existing NEIS participants can also choose to access the government’s Coronavirus Supplement if they receive an eligible income support payment, with Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash saying in April NEIS providers will help individuals in the program determine the best arrangements for accessing the supplement.