COSBOA is calling for the National Cabinet to come together and create a nationally consistent financial assistance program for businesses affected by local COVID-19 outbreaks and associated lockdowns. This could be modelled on New Zealand’s COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payment.
In New Zealand, when the COVID-19 alert level increases to level 2 or higher for 7 days or longer, the Resurgence Support Payment is activated. Eligible businesses can apply to receive the lesser of:
- $1,500 plus $400 per full-time equivalent employee, up to a maximum of 50 FTEs
- 4x the actual revenue decline experienced by the applicant.
Eligibility is according to loss in turnover during the high alert level period.
COSBOA CEO Peter Strong said “Our friends across the Tasman are ahead of us in this area. Yes, not having states does make it easier for them, but our states and territories can still choose to work together through the National Cabinet. Instead they have chosen to turn inwards and play politics.
“We’re more than twelve months on from the start of the pandemic and have experienced multiple local lockdowns in almost all of our capital cities. We know that they will happen again. There’s no excuse for not having a nationally consistent business support payment ready to be activated when a lockdown is called.”
Mr Strong added “Assessing eligibility according to loss in turnover is another thing that New Zealand is doing right. We did that right at the national level with JobKeeper, but after its Valentines Day lockdown Victoria decided to limit support to certain ANSZIC codes. That meant certain small businesses that really did suffer – for instance in allied health and complementary medicine – couldn’t even apply for financial support. It’s just not right.”
COSBOA also recommends that the National Cabinet create a nationally consistent alert level system similar to what is used in New Zealand to alleviate confusion over what is an essential business and reasons that people can leave their homes.
Mr Strong said “The public should know ahead of time what they can and can’t do under stage two restrictions, stage three restrictions, stage four etc. Small business owners in all sectors need to know when they can open and when they can’t. That way when a state government calls for a ‘stage three’ lockdown, everyone knows what that entails.
COSBOA has previously called for JobKeeper to be kept in the background and compatible with accounting software, ready to be implemented when needed. It has also called for a nationally consistent list of essential businesses that can be scaled up or down according to the severity of the outbreak. Inconsistency between states was a common complaint raised by industry association leaders in COSBOA’s Small Business Perspective survey and report. The report concluded that ‘Nationally agreed arrangements [on the enforced closure of non-essential businesses] based on evidence that accommodate consultation and provide consistency (and certainty of timing) are required so that small businesses can be prepared.’