Coronavirus update for business: Raiz launches crypto portfolio, $1.8 billion for community grants, and Aussie micro-businesses doing better than most

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Small biz boost?

The federal government has unveiled a $1.8 billion package to fund road and community projects through local governments, in a move the Prime Minister says will help local councils support small businesses.

The government has brought forward $1.3 billion in Financial Assistance Grant payments, and launched a new $500 million Local Road and Community Infrastructure Program.

It means local councils will be able to crack on with road and travel projects, offering procurement opportunities for local businesses, and creating jobs while they’re at it.

Micro-blessings

Australian micro-businesses are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they’re faring better than their counterparts in other countries, according to data from Ivoice2go.

Analysis of 24,000 Aussie businesses with four or fewer employees found there was a 12% decline in total invoiced dollars in April 2020, compared to April 2019.

That’s not great news. But, the picture is significantly bleaker elsewhere.

According to the research, micro-businesses in the US have seen a 27% decline, while Canadian businesses have seen a 40% drop.

In Europe, the average is a 46% drop, while micro-businesses in the UK are suffering particularly badly, recording a dip of 53%.

Time for crypto to shine?

Aussie micro-investment startup Raiz has launched its first-ever Bitcoin investment portfolio, as the COVID-19 pandemic ignites appetite for alternative assets, particularly cryptocurrency.

The new ‘Sapphire’ portfolio will offer investors exposure to Bitcoin, with a 5% allocation to the cryptocurrency.

Although the new portfolio has been in the pipeline for 18 months, the economic effects of COVID-19 have led the fintech to crypto might be more in demand from here on out, a statement said.

“Although this latest portfolio offering from Raiz is very high risk, feedback from many customers has clearly shown that they have an appetite for an investment strategy that has an exposure to cryptocurrencies,” Raiz founder and chief George Lucas said.

“Many of our investors are millennials, who have time on their side when adopting an investment choice such as the Sapphire portfolio for the long term,” he added.

Be a good sport

As we tentatively start to think about returning to regular activities, the Australian Sports Foundation is reaching out to community clubs and organisations and asking what they need in order to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

With membership income and sponsorships running dry, the foundation is planning a campaign to help clubs access the funding they need to get back on their feet.

But first, it’s launched a survey to get a sense of the full impact on the clubs themselves, the communities they serve, and grassroots sports in general.

At the time of writing, more than 2,000 clubs had responded.

You can access the survey here.

Big problems, tiny solutions

In California, one startup is tackling the affordable housing crisis by turning unused spaces into tiny rental homes.

According to Business Insider, United Dwelling partners with homeowners and transforms their garages, backyard spaces and sheds into 369-square foot studios, complete with a kitchen, laundry and private patio.

Rents are between US$1300 ($1990) and US$2100 ($3215) per month — typically 20% less than the average of the area — with rental income split between the homeowner and the startup.

California has long suffered from a shortage of affordable housing, as well-paid tech employees hog the market. However, with more and more tech giants considering a move to remote work, it’s possible the demand could ease, making a granny flat in the garage a tad less appealing.

But, the startup has just raised $10 million in Series B funding, so it seems investors are banking on the status quo for now.

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