In what are challenging times for many small businesses across the country, the JobKeeper payments are a belated but crucial lifeline for businesses that would otherwise had to likely shut up shop forever because of COVID-19.
Every business faces a different situation – some have been forced to close their doors; some continue to operate but with severely reduced turnover.
But they all face the immense pressure of having to navigate how to keep their head above water in the current climate.
For many this means confronting the reality of having to let their staff go.
Among the multitude of decisions, judgment calls, health considerations and strategic business plans, what small businesses need from government is clear and available information.
My office has received a number of inquiries from affected small businesses concerned about their eligibility for the JobKeeper wage subsidy.
One often cited query is whether or not a small business in operation for less than 12 months can access the payment?
Some businesses have suggested the publicly released details of the JobKeeper payment mean they are ineligible as they may not be able to compare a current period of significant declines in revenue to a comparable period a year earlier.
I received a briefing from Treasury to find out answers to questions like this and was advised that alternative arrangements to meet eligibility requirements are in place for businesses that haven’t been operating for 12 months, and the Commissioner for Taxation will have discretion to consider additional information to establish that they have been adversely impacted by COVID-19.
While not all the questions we had could be answered, we would encourage small businesses, regardless of how long they have been established to apply to via the ATO.
What business need most right now is clear, consistent information about what they are eligible for. The government has an obligation to make this accessible and publicly available.
The government needs to get this right. It needs to take swift action, provide support where it’s needed quickly, and make sure gaps don’t remain.
From the start of the coronavirus crisis Labor has said we will be supportive and constructive. But we will also continue to advocate for Australians when there are clear gaps that must be filled.
Labor’s priority is to protect jobs, help Australian workers, businesses, families and communities through this difficult time, and ensure vulnerable Australians are supported.