As part of our recent webinar, Open for business: Unpacking the Jobs Victoria wage subsidy, SmartCompany editor Eloise Keating sat down with Jobs Victoria CEO Lisa Buckingham. We heard about how more than $600 million was invested into Jobs Victoria at last year’s state budget, which resulted in the creation of the Jobs Victoria wage subsidy.
Because the fund is all about supporting small businesses, here’s how the wage subsidy helped business owner Chris Choong keep his Jamaica Blue Café afloat during the pandemic.
What is the Jobs Victoria wage subsidy?
After the government apportioned $619 million to Jobs Victoria in the 2021/22 state budget, the department was determined to create a wage subsidy fund that would provide specialist employment support services, according to Buckingham.
“The $250 million Jobs Victoria fund provides wage subsidies for businesses right across Victoria,” she says. “We have an incredible opportunity here to support 10,000 jobs and small businesses that are recovering and growing beyond the pandemic.”
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From challenge to challenge
Chris Choong is one business owner who has been supported by the fund, and it’s helped him turn a corner after a protracted and difficult journey.
“I have had my café for six years now. Starting in 2015, it was very hard from the beginning. We went through the first few years as a totally new business, and when we started to pick up in 2019 we were hit by the bushfires,” he says.
Located in Westfield Fountain Gate in Narre Warren, Choong’s Jamaica Blue Café was directly impacted by the devastation of the bushfires. While being unable to operate as usual was a financial detriment in itself, things would quickly get worse when the pandemic swept through Australia in 2020.
From bushfire to pandemic
Choong knows all too well how hard Victorian businesses have been hit in recent years. But when the pandemic struck, even his worst nightmares couldn’t have predicted a drop in revenue of 90%.
“I don’t believe any small business [in that position] could spend money, for example to hire more or new staff,” he says. “We needed to build the business up, but we didn’t have enough staff to prepare for the incoming busy periods.”
Fortuitously, the Jobs Victoria wage subsidy arrived at the perfect time. He was able to hire three new employees: Sharon, who is the sole breadwinner for her family of four, which includes her husband with an underlying medical condition; and Amy and Phoebe, who are both recent migrants with non-English-speaking backgrounds.
Choong says the application process was much easier than he expected, especially considering the unique circumstances of his new staff.
“The paperwork is not very complicated,” he says. “It’s very simple. Each employee just has to fill out an employee consent form, and then the employer needs to fill out an application form plus the statutory declaration. It’s a very, very powerful tool provided by Jobs Victoria — user-friendly and easy to use.”
Applying for the Jobs Victoria wage subsidy
Choong hopes other businesses that have been affected by the pandemic are able to take advantage of the fund. He suggests they look into the wage subsidy and make an application as soon as possible. “Small business owners that may not have heard about it, I would advise that you try and apply for the wage subsidy. It really does help, [and] we need it during this period of time.”
Jobs Victoria developed the fund to avoid all the red tape that is typically associated with grants and business-support programs. If you are interested in what the fund offers, making an application is simple.
Start by visiting www.jobs.vic.gov.au and fill out a short eligibility checklist. The questions provided will help business owners understand if you are eligible. If successful, Jobs Victoria will contact you and send out a grant agreement. Once this is signed between both parties (the employer and Jobs Victoria), payments will begin.
Generally, Jobs Victoria pays three milestone payments over the course of 12 months. The initial payment is a 40% portion, with the remainder delivered as two instalments of 30% each. However, there is flexibility around this system depending on your business’s circumstances.
For more information about the Jobs Victoria wage subsidy, visit www.jobs.vic.gov.au. You can also watch our webinar, Open for business: Unpacking the Jobs Victoria wage subsidy, to hear more about the fund and Choong’s experience.
Jobs Victoria can help businesses find the people they need and Victorians find their way back to work. Call 1300 208 575 or visit jobs.vic.gov.au/fund.