Victoria funds business lockdown support amid ‘anger, disappointment’ with federal leaders

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About 90,000 Victorian businesses affected by this week’s lockdown will be offered financial help from the Victorian government, as state leaders criticised their federal counterparts for refusing to provide similar support to individual workers who have lost income.

Acting Premier James Merlino has announced a $250 million Circuit Breaker Business Support package, including grants of $2500 for eligible businesses including cafes, restaurants, event
suppliers, accommodation providers and non-essential retailers.

Additional grants of $3500 will be offered to licensed venues, and the state government has allocated $20 million for operators in the events industry.

The package is aimed at businesses most affected by the lockdown that began on Friday in response to an outbreak first triggered by a COVID-19 leak from South Australian hotel quarantine.

Victoria recorded five new local coronavirus cases in the past day, including an aged care worker who tested positive after working at a facility in Melbourne’s north-west. Two cases, including that in aged care, cannot yet be traced back to an existing case.

Treasurer Tim Pallas said businesses could register their interest in the Business Costs Assistance Program to be notified when applications open this week. He hoped some of those payments would begin to flow by the end of the week.

Mr Merlino said he was “beyond disappointed” the federal government had failed to support Victorian businesses and individual workers during this time with income support.

Mr Pallas said the federal government’s stance was “totally, totally unsustainable”.

“They’re not a silent partner, they like making speeches. I’ll tell you what they’re not. They’re not a tangible partner, they need to step up to the plate,” Mr Pallas said.

“I am angry and I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed because all the language talks about a partnership. It delivers nothing in real terms for the people who need it most. They like to pride themselves on being the party of the forgotten people. Well, the people they seem to have forgotten is Victorians, and in particular Victorian workers.”

Mr Pallas said he asked the federal government to put in place targeted and specific payments for workers who had been affected or stood down due to the lockdown arrangements.

“It was pretty clear that the Commonwealth weren’t interested,” he said.

He said they also asked the federal government to match dollar for dollar the $250 million the state government has pledged to provide assistance through employers to workers.

“Again the answer was no,” Mr Pallas said. “And the one thing that the Commonwealth have done is that they have agreed not to tax the payments we give to business.”

More to come

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