MELBOURNE, Australia — Businesses from Victoria, the Australian state, which was forced to shut during the state’s fourth lockdown will be given an AU$250 million ($193 million) lifeline, although there is no support for out-of-pocket workers.
The Victorian government on May 30 announced its much-anticipated support package to help businesses survive the seven-day shutdown.
The AU$250 million ($193 million) package includes AU$190 million ($146 million) in AU$2500 ($1933) grants for businesses, AU$40.7 million ($31.48 million) in AU$3500 ($2706) grants for a liquor license and food certificate holders and AU$20 million ($15.47 million) for event operators.
It expects 90,000 small to medium-sized businesses and sole traders to be eligible for the payments. Treasurer Tim Pallas said the quarter of a billion-dollar package was bigger and broader than that provided during the state’s snap lockdown in February.
“It’s the single biggest package on a pro-rata basis that this state or any state has provided,” he told reporters on May 30.
Treasury estimates Victoria’s seven-day lockdown will punch an AU$700 million ($541 million) hole in the economy, but Pallas would not be drawn on possibly extending the package if it drags out past June 3.
“It is hurting businesses. It is hurting the workforce,” he said.
“We understand that we have an obligation to assist and support them. That is exactly what we are doing.”
Industry groups welcomed the package after publicly lobbying the state government for immediate support, although some fear it might not be enough.
“Compared with the cost to business from the lockdown the relatively small amount of support offered will be quickly swallowed up if the lockdown continues beyond a week,” Australian Industry Group Victorian head Tim Piper said.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra added the federal government needed to urgently follow suit with a JobKeeper-like wage subsidy.
“When Australians needed support in 2020, both state and federal governments were there. Now is not the time for the feds to abandon Victorians,” he said.
Acting Premier James Merlino and Pallas both lashed the federal government for its refusal to come to the aid of Victorian workers in their time of need.
“The Commonwealth’s view is that if these are short-term circuit breakers, then the states should pay for them,” Pallas said, “Well, we are paying. We are paying very substantially, and I don’t think working people should be paying.”
But Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien criticized the tactic, accusing the government of lobbing “verbal hand grenades” to deflect responsibility for the lockdown.
“Attacking the federal government doesn’t get Victoria reopened. It doesn’t get Victorians back to work. It doesn’t keep the virus under control,” he told reporters.
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ritaban Misra. Map by Urvashi Makwana)
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