Why this NSW small business owner says the COVID-19 support package is ‘unfair’

NSW-lockdown

Kara Cooper, owner of Mount Vic and Me in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales.

Small businesses in New South Wales say the latest round of COVID-19 business support lacks a clear eligibility criteria and shouldn’t leave out the smallest operators. 

The coronavirus support package, jointly announced by the NSW and federal governments yesterday, includes a cashflow payment for struggling businesses that retain their staff throughout the lockdown and new grants for micro businesses.

Kara Cooper, owner of Mount Vic and Me in the Blue Mountains, says while the support might help her retain her only casual staff member, it unfairly denies assistance to small operators in the region, and means small businesses will need to consult their accountants to navigate the eligibility criteria.  

“If I can get 40% support in my employee’s wages, it’s better than nothing. I need her to work a lot more but I can’t afford it,” Cooper tells SmartCompany.

Cooper, who operates a gift wear store in Mount Victoria, assumes she’s eligible to receive the cashflow boost payments but is waiting for the eligibility criteria to be announced before she sees her accountant.

“[My employee’s] hours have absolutely dwindled. I’ve said to her that I’ll wait and see what my accountant says will be best for the business,” she says.

Despite the package including a new fortnightly grant for micro businesses with annual turnover between $30,000 to $75,000, Cooper says it’s still “not fair to smaller businesses”.

“I feel that it’s not fair to smaller businesses that are happy making less than $30,000 a year,” she says.

“I have a friend who just started a business in January, and she’s not even making $30,000 yet, and now she’s sitting there with a shop she can’t use and doesn’t know what the future will be like.”

Businesses in the Blue Mountains — an area largely dependent on tourism — have been struggling since October 2019. Following the bushfires during the summer, floods devastated the area and then the coronavirus pandemic hit last March.

Cooper says many businesses owners in the region are gearing up for Yulefest, which is a mid-year Christmas celebration that’s set to take place in August.

“I just feel like that’s not just going to happen. We’ll be really lucky to see it go ahead in August,” she says.

On Wednesday, the NSW government extended Sydney’s lockdown for a further two weeks, after the state recorded its second-highest daily figure since the current outbreak began.

NSW Health recorded 97 new local cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday night, with 24 of those cases infectious within the community.

In a survey conducted by the women-led business mentoring service Small Business Women Australia, the majority of respondents said they would lose more than $10,000 if the lockdown were to last until the end of July.

Of the 500 survey respondents, 15% said they would lose up to $50,000 by the end of the month.

Amanda Rose, founder of Small Business Women Australia, tells SmartCompany the findings show that female business owners in retail, hospitality, beauty and events will suffer the most as a result of the restrictions.

“They’re most frustrated about a lack of communication about what’s essential business, about when the lockdown will end, and the lack of support for those turning over under $75,000,” Rose says.

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