“More to say soon”: Victorian government tight-lipped on help for Melbourne businesses hit by lockdowns

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Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas. Source: AAP/Joe Castro.

The Victorian government remains tight-lipped on the prospect of additional financial support for small businesses affected by Melbourne’s second COVID-19 lockdown, amid confirmation JobKeeper-like support will be available past September for struggling companies.

Businesses across Australia’s second-most populous city are in crisis management mode today after many were told they would have to close their doors or revert to restricted operations for six weeks, as coronavirus cases in Victoria soar.

Almost 500,000 businesses are affected by the Melbourne lockdown, according to analysis of labour market figures circulated by the Australian Industry Group on Thursday.

SmartCompany has been contacted by many readers asking when the state government will announce additional financial support, as they reel from being placed into another business-crushing lockdown through no fault of their own.

But while Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas has welcomed comments from Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday that a further phase of income support will be extended past September, the state government is yet to announce what it will do to help struggling firms.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Victorian government said an announcement would be made “soon” but declined to provide any further detail.

“We’ve stood with businesses and workers throughout this crisis from the very start. We’re working with industry on further support and will have more to say soon,” the spokesperson said.

“JobKeeper and JobSeeker have been vital in dealing with the economic crisis created by coronavrius, and we welcome the Federal Government’s reassurance that there will be a further phase of support beyond September.”

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled $5,000 grants for businesses in postcodes affected by the state’s initial localised lockdowns, which have now given way to stage three restrictions across metropolitan Melbourne.

It is anticipated that the state government might extend the eligibility of those hardship grants to all businesses affected by the second lockdown, as language on the Victorian government’s website has changed over the past 24 hours.

Dates stipulating access to the $5,000 grants were removed from the website following the announcement of the city-wide lockdown on Tuesday, although a spokesperson for Treasurer Tim Pallas would not be drawn on whether the program would be extended on Thursday morning.

The Victorian government has already spent about $6 billion in funding and forgone tax revenue to support businesses and workers through the pandemic.

Melbourne businesses SmartCompany has spoken with are scrambling to organise their business plans and financial road maps to survive the six-week lockdown.

While the federal government has confirmed additional support will be extended, it is still not clear what form this will take, or what eligibility requirements will be imposed.

NOW READ: Morrison confirms “further phase” of income support after JobKeeper expires

NOW READ: “Heartbreaking”: Melbourne businesses losing hope in the face of second COVID-19 lockdown

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