Support for businesses affected by COVID-19

Published on 24 March 2020

Photo: Many businesses have been blindsided by the coronavirus pandemic (credit: Mia Mala McDonald)

Updated 7 April 2020

Australia’s shutdown to curb coronavirus has hit many sectors hard, but especially hospitality, events and tourism. Both the Australian and Victorian governments have announced stimulus packages and financial support for those on the economic frontlines. Here are the measures most relevant to hospitality businesses.

Wage subsidies

What: Known as the JobKeeper Payment, this is a new measure to encourage employers to keep employees on the books and reconnect with them when they're ready to open their doors. Small businesses who have seen a downturn of 30% or more are able to claim $1,500 per fortnight for each eligible employee from 30 March 2020. The payments can be claimed for a maximum of 6 months, and are available to all full-time and part-time workers. Casual workers who have been employed for 12 months or longer are also eligible.

Who: Federal government

When: Payments can be backdated to 30 March 2020, but the scheme is yet to pass Parliament.

More info: Available from the Australian Treasury

Cashflow boosts for business

What: Tax-free payments of between $20,000 and $100,000 are available to businesses with annual turnover of less than $50 million. The payment is tied to the total wages of a business’s employees and will be distributed through the ATO automatically, based on business activity statements. You do not need to apply for the cash flow boosts. If you are eligible, the cash flow boosts will be automatically applied to your account when you lodge your activity statement.

Who: Federal government

When: From 28 April 2020

More info: Available from the ATO

Payroll tax refund

What: Full refunds on payroll tax are available for the 2019/20 financial year (this includes tax you’ve already paid). Small and medium-sized businesses with payroll of less than $3 million are eligible. This is a refund, not a loan. Payments should start being distributed by the Victorian government this week.

Who: Victorian government

When: By Friday 27 March, according to the government.

More info: Available from the Premier of Victoria


Payroll tax deferment

What: Small and medium-sized businesses with payroll of less than $3 million can defer any payroll tax for the first three months of the 2020/21 financial year.

Who: Victorian government

When: Covers the first quarter of 2020/21 financial year, with payments deferred to 1 January 2021.

More info: Available from the Premier of Victoria


Business Support Fund

What: A $500 million fund in Victoria for the sectors hardest hit by COVID-19, including hospitality, tourism and accommodation. Few details are available at this stage, although the Premier has said the fund “will help these businesses – which may not be eligible for payroll tax refunds due to their size – survive and keep people in work”.

Who: Victorian government, with input from Victorian Chamber, Australian Hotels Association and Ai Group

When: TBC

More info: Register your details to get updates on the fund, eligibility and more.


Working for Victoria Fund

What: A $500 million fund to help workers who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 find new work. This is likely to include jobs performing essential services the state needs right now, delivering food, for example, and there’s a job-matching component to the fund.

Who: Victorian government

When: TBC

More info: Register your details to get updates on the fund, eligibility and more.


Liquor license fees

What: License fees are waived for 2020 for affected venues and small businesses.

Who: Victorian government

When: Covers the 2020 calendar year.

More info: Available from the Victorian Commission for Racing, Gaming and Liquor

Victorian land tax payments for 2020 are also being deferred. Find out more.


Loan guarantees

What: From 1 April 2020, any new loans granted for working capital will be 50% underwritten by the federal government. This only applies to loans up to $250,000 for businesses with turnover of $50 million or less which have been affected by COVID-19. There are no repayments for the first six months, but the loan must be repaid within three years.

Who: Federal government

When: Loan applications between 1 April 2020 and 1 October 2020

More info: Available from the Australian Government.


Instant asset write-off 

What: The federal government’s scheme to write off the cost of any asset you purchase for your business in the same financial year is slated to be expanded. The threshold has been lifted to $150,000 from the previous $30,000. The government has also incentivised purchasing assets now rather than later, with a 15-month window before an accelerated depreciation timetable kicks in.

Who: Federal government

When: TBC

More info: Available from the ATO


City of Melbourne has launched support programs to help COVID-affected businesses. These are of course specific to businesses operating withi the council's boundaries, but they include

  • COVID-19 business grants – for small- and medium-sized businesses
  • A COVID-19 business concierge service
  • A virtual business summit (currently in development; businesses can register their interest via the City's COVID-19 Business Concierge Hotline on 03 9658 9658, pressing 1 for business)
  • Regular updates via its business newsletter for more news on how the City can help businesses during this time


Still to come

Both the Premier and the Prime Minister have indicated these measures are the first of more to come over the next six months. The federal government has suggested the potential for creating specific funds for hardest-hit industries, similar to the aviation fund of $715 million. Tourism and hospitality have been earmarked. 


Victorian Government hotline for affected businesses: 13 22 15

More resources on helping you navigate this new environment can be found here 


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