Tuesday (14 September) saw the widely anticipated announcement of an extension to lockdown to 11:59 pm on 15 October, and with the Barr Government yet to reveal a specific roadmap out of lockdown, many Canberra businesses are still facing weeks of uncertainty.
In response, business support grants have been topped up with eligible businesses receiving up to an extra $30,000.
Businesses that applied for the ACT COVID-19 Business Support Grant will be given extension payments of $10,000 if they employ staff and $3750 if they do not.
This is on top of the $20,000 for employing businesses and $7500 for non-employing businesses which have had turnover decrease by at least 30 per cent.
One-off top-up payments will also be made for larger employing businesses, with $10,000 for businesses with a turnover between $2 million and $5 million; $20,000 for businesses with a turnover between $5 million and $10 million; and $30,000 for businesses with a turnover greater than $10 million.
Tourism, arts, events and hospitality industries will also receive additional one-off grants of between $1000 and $20,000 depending on whether they employ staff and their turnover. Around 2,000 businesses are estimated to be eligible for this additional grant.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr flagged further support for businesses at the next lockdown checkpoint on 1 October.
Choosing the best grant option has caused some confusion and hardship for businesses that trade across borders. Eligible businesses must choose one jurisdiction to claim support, meaning businesses cannot claim support from both the ACT and NSW.
RSM Australia senior advisor Young Han says this separation is linked to the Commonwealth paying 50 per cent of support offered by each state and territory.
Where businesses are eligible for both NSW and ACT grants, businesses are advised to calculate the estimated amount they will receive under each grant and choose the best option.
“In general, NSW JobSaver is the best option for employing businesses due to amount and continuity of payment,” Ms Han said.
“For example, if a business in Queanbeyan is eligible to receive JobSaver and the amount they receive is going to be greater than the $20,000, they should apply for JobSaver and the NSW business grant.
“However, if they are not eligible for JobSaver, then it would be better to apply for the ACT grant as it is bigger than NSW business grant,” Ms Han explained.
“If a business has already applied for ACT grant, but become eligible for JobSaver, they should withdraw the ACT Grant and apply for JobSaver and NSW grant.”
For one ACT business, choosing support has not been so straightforward.
Michael Milton owns Quizzic Alley, a Canberra-based, family-owned small business with two retail outlets in Fyshwick and Sydney.
When the Sydney lockdown was announced, Mr Milton said he applied for the business support package offered by the NSW Government and has received the one-off payment of $15,000. He understands he also qualifies for the JobSaver program but only for his Sydney store as JobSaver is paid only for payroll for work performed in NSW.
“Once our store in Canberra was also forced to close, we started researching the options for ACT Government’s support of local businesses. However, we have now been told by the ACT Government that we are ineligible for any financial support from the ACT as we have already applied in NSW.”
Michael said this is distressing news and doubts his Canberra store can survive to Christmas without some government support.
“We are paying wages, rent, insurance, utilities and other costs at two separate premises and I don’t understand why we are not eligible for funding in both states. If we had structured our business to have a different ABN for each store we would currently be getting support from both governments,” Michael said.
An ACT government spokesperson advised that to receive support from the ACT, the eligible business would need to first repay the funds already received from NSW.
Michael says he would do this if he had the $15,000 to make the payment.
“I understand that we are not eligible for the Commonwealth payment twice, but I do not understand why we are not eligible for the 50 per cent ACT support. It is no exaggeration to say that support would make the difference between Quizzic Alley surviving this lockdown or not.”