Flattening the curve – or slowing the continued spread of COVID-19 has created a scary paradox of restrictions for businesses large and small. Isolation is necessary to keep the virus at bay and hospital intakes are at workable levels (and we want to keep our loved ones safe and healthy), but doing so wreaks havoc on our economy. When businesses lose their ability to turn a profit (or even open their doors), employees lose their income, meaning they don’t have money to pay their bills, let alone help keep local business afloat – leading to more layoffs. Recognising the devastating affect this will have for hundreds of thousands of Australians and businesses, the Aussie Government has come to the table with a continually re-evaluated raft of financial support measures for individuals, employers and businesses to give them their best chance of getting back on their feet when the crisis has passed.
The current state of play for COVID-19 restrictions
Australia is close to a nationwide Stage 3 shutdown, though each State and Territory is responsible for setting their own restrictions – you can find detailed information on their website.
Current restrictions include:
- Public gatherings, excluding household members, have been reduced to a maximum of two people.
- Everyone should stay home unless shopping for essentials, receiving medical care, exercising or travelling to work or education.
- People aged over 70, aged over 60 with pre-existing conditions, or Indigenous people aged over 50 should stay home wherever possible for their own protection.
- Those suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 must self-isolate.
- Travellers returning home from overseas will be quarantined in a hotel or designated facility for 14 days.
- Pubs, licensed clubs and hotels (excluding accommodation), gyms, skateparks, indoor sporting venues, cinemas, beauty salons, play centres and outside playgrounds, places of worship and other public places must be closed. There are restrictions on attendance at weddings, funerals and outdoor fitness classes.
- Supermarkets and pharmacies remain open.
As of this week, many of the Australian states have moved to Stage 3 COVID-19 lock-downs with other states expected to quickly follow. The main change in restrictions being previous advice about staying home is now enforceable with on-the-spot fines. The public is advised to only leave their home for one of the following four reasons:
- shopping for food and essential supplies
- medical, care or compassionate needs
- exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirements
- work and study if it can’t be done remotely
Help for financially distressed businesses
These COVID-19 restrictions put strain on businesses – even if you’re allowed to remain open or you’re able to move to a remote workforce, you may still experience financial difficulties, have to cut or stand down staff, have outstanding supplier bills or other bills to pay (including rent.) To that end, the Australian Government have released a range of helpful financial measures to assist. While our list is not exhaustive (and the Government will continually reassess what is required), you can stay up to date of the Australian Government’s Treasury page.
- JobKeeper payment – a wage subsidy to continue paying your employees, under which you may be eligible for a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee from 30 March 2020, for a maximum of six months.
- Boosting Cash Flow for Employers – up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium-sized businesses, and not for-profits (NFPs) that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000 to enable them to keep operating, pay rent, electricity and other bills and retain staff.
- Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses – for owners or directors of a business that are currently struggling due to the Coronavirus, the ATO will tailor solutions for their circumstances, including temporary reduction of payments or deferrals, or withholding enforcement actions including Director Penalty Notices and wind-ups.
The corona-crisis and COVID-19 shut-downs are likely to continue evolving quickly, so it’s important to stay informed. Download the official government “Coronavirus Australia” app in the Apple App Store or Google Play, or join our WhatsApp channel on iOS or Android.