The COVID-19 business assistance toolkit

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// Startup News has brought together all the available support we could find that might be relevant…

In this article we try to distill every kind of assistance we could find into one place, from Federal, State (WA), and local governments, as well as startup hubs and banks. The information was as accurate as we could ensure at the time of publication.

This a long post, but we wanted to capture as much as we could. Do please check out the information yourself and seek independent advice

Local Governments contacted and included are: City of Bayswater, City of Canning, City of Kwinana and City of Stirling.

Summary

The Federal Government has put forth a number of multi-billion dollar measures to help businesses and individuals during this time of need.

Assistance for businesses include an instant asset write-off threshold increase to $150,000, accelerated depreciation, federal funds, underwriting of loans to support lending to SMEs, and tax support like adjusting payment plans and waiving penalties on a case-by-case basis.

Measures such as early superannuation release are being allowed, and a number of income support measures have been implemented including a $550 per fortnight payment to eligible people.

Wage subsidies are also available to affected businesses (who’ve seen a 30% revenue hit) at $1,500 per fortnight per employee, effectively paying a good proportion of their wages for six months.

The State Government of Western Australia has also introduced its own suite of measures to help businesses.

Included in the $114 million package going to support Western Australian SMEs is: $17,500 one off grant for some businesses, $1 million payroll tax thresholds brought forward by six months to 1 July 2020, and payroll tax deferral for SMEs. More is being announced on a daily basis, so please keep checking for more information as it comes out.

Local Governments across Perth are implementing their own assistive measures including: fee waivers, bond refunds, online workshops, business mentorships, business reviews and a dedicated hotline for businesses.

Startup Hubs are running many of their events online now, with some still including networking opportunities, mentoring and other supportive measures. Most of these supportive networks are free.

The Australian Banking Association recently released new measures to assist all businesses affected by COVID-19. Australian banks will defer loan repayments for businesses with loan facilities of up to $10m that have been impacted by the coronavirus.

Image – Pexels

Federal Government

For more detail on Federal assistance available, please see our previous run down here.

For up to date information please see: business.gov.au/risk-management/emergency-management/coronavirus-information-and-support-for-business

The Federal Government has provided a suite of economic tools and assistance measures made available which include threshold increases to instant asset write off, accelerated depreciation, federal funds to assist the hardest hit, cash flow assistance, and tax support.

In detail:  

  • Instant asset write-off threshold has been increased to $150,000 for assets either installed or ready for first use by 30 June 2020.
  • Businesses with turnovers of less than $500 million will be able to deduct 50% of cost of an eligible asset on installation, with existing depreciation rules applying to the balance of the asset’s cost. This incentive is available through to 30 June 2021.
  • $1 billion support fund has been made available to assist industries and regions severely affected by the economic impacts of Coronavirus.
  • SME Guarantee Scheme will assist cash flow needs by providing a guarantee of 50% to SME lenders for new unsecured loans to be used for working capital. Eligibility is for SMEs with a turnover of up to $50 million, terms include a maximum total size of $250,000 per borrower, loans will be up in 3 years, with an initial 6 month repayment holiday, and loans will be in the form of unsecured finance meaning borrowers will not have to provide an asset as security for the loan.
  • The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has announced that eligible businesses will be able to defer payments, vary Pay as You Go (PAYG) installments and adjust payment plans including the opportunity to change GST reporting cycles. This will allow businesses with a GST turnover below $20 million to change their reporting cycle from quarterly to monthly, meaning GST credits can be received on a monthly basis, therefore, improving cash flow for many startups and SMEs. On a case-by-case basis, the ATO is willing to remit interest and waive penalties incurred after 23 January 2020 for businesses directly affected by the Coronavirus. More tax information can be found at the ATO COVID-19 website.

Superannuation Access

Early superannuation access is now possible for eligible persons. Eligibility includes people who are:

  • Unemployed
  • Are eligible for income support, or,
  • For the time period from 1 January 2020 were
    • Made redundant
    • Had working hours reduced by 20% or,
    • If you’re a sole trader, your business was suspended or there was a reduction in your turnover of 20% or more.

You can access up to $10,000 in 2019-20, and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. Applications for early release open mid-April 2020. People accessing superannuation will not need to pay tax on amounts released, and the money will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.

This can be done by logging into your myGov account and following the intention to access coronavirus support instructions.

Do get your own financial advice on these and other measures.

Relief From Financial Distress

For businesses, temporary relief from financial distress is available. The threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company has been increased for 6 months to $20,000.

The time companies have to respond to statutory demands they receive has been raised to 6 months. This increase will apply for 6 months.

The minimum amount of debt required for a creditor to initiate bankruptcy proceedings has increased to $20,000. This will also apply for six months.

The Federal Government Website states that you do NOT need to apply. The measures apply for 6 months.

Income Support

Eligibility for income support payments are being expanded. A new Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight for existing and new recipients of the eligible payment categories. These will apply for the next six months.

Payment categories are:

  • Jobseeker Payment
  • Youth Allowance Jobseeker
  • Parenting Payment (Partnered and Single)
  • Farm Household Allowance
  • Special Benefits recipients

Expanded access means that for Jobseeker Paymenty and Youth Allowance Jobseeker will provide payment access for permanent employees who are stood down or lose their employment.

Expanded eligibility applies to:

  • Sole traders
  • Self employed
  • Casual workers
  • Contract workers who meet the income tests as a result of the Coronavirus economic downturn.

Income support means testing has been waived for Jobseeker, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, and Parenting Payment for the period of the Coronavirus supplement.

Waiting times have also been waived, meaning the one week Ordinary Waiting Period has been waived, along with Liquid Asset test Waiting Period (LAWP), and Seasonal Work Preclusion Period. This applies to recipients eligible for the Coronavirus supplement. People currently serving the LAWP will no longer need to serve that waiting period.

For more income support information please see: business.gov.au/Risk-management/Emergency-management/Coronavirus-information-and-support-for-business/Increased-and-accelerated-income-support

Employers

Temporary cash flow support will be provided by the federal government.

Employers will receive a payment equal to 100% of their salary and wages withheld, with the payment increases: maximum payment now at $50,000, and minimum at $10,000.

An additional payment is also being introduced equal to the total of all of the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers payments received. This means that eligible businesses will receive at least $20,000 up to a total of $100,000 under both payments.

Eligible employers can apply for wage subsidy of 50% for apprentices or trainees wage paid 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. The maximum reimbursement is $21,000 per eligible apprentice or trainee ($7,000 per quarter).

Another subsidy (‘JobKeeper’, announced Monday 30th March) for employers that is not confined to apprentices and trainees is available. This is a $1500 per fortnight contribution to the salaries of each staff member, and must be paid to the employee (as long as they were employed on March 1st). This is available for a maximum of 6 months.

The federal government has stated that should casual employees’ work or income is impacted by the Coronavirus, they may be eligible for income support payments. Those details can be found in the relevant section above.

How Will the Employee Assistance Work?

The application link can be found at the JobKeeper website.

There are eligibility criteria for employers and employees and are found in the same link above for applications.

Hold on Evictions

The Federal moratorium on evictions applies to both commercial and residential tenancies.

The Prime Minister announced the evictions will be put on hold over the next 6 months for those who are unable to meet their commitments due to the impact of coronavirus.

Further information will be available soon here.

Image – Wikimedia Commons

State Government (Western Australia)

The package the WA Government is providing includes the following measures for businesses:

  • $114 million in measures to support Western Australian small and medium businesses.
  • Payroll tax paying businesses with a payroll between $1 million and $4 million will receive a one-off grant of $17,500.
  • $1 million payroll tax threshold brought forward by six months to July 1, 2020.
  • Small and medium sized businesses affected by COVID-19 can now apply to defer payment of their 2019-20 payroll tax until July 21, 2020.

For households, the WA Government has the following assistance in place:

  • A freeze will be placed on household fees and charges, including electricity, water, motor vehicle charges, the emergency services levy and public transport fares
  • An allocation of $402 million in the 2020-21 Budget will go towards paying for the freeze
  • $91 million allocated to double the Energy Assistance Package (EAP) in 2020-21 to provide additional support to vulnerable Western Australians. The payment will increase from $300 to $600 for eligible concession card-holders

The payroll tax information can be found here, with payroll tax deferral applications made through the WA Government website here.

The WA Government has stated that:

A one-off grant of $17,500 will be available for employers, or groups of employers, whose annual Australian taxable wages are more than $1 million and up to $4 million.

For a group of employers, a single grant will be payable to the designated group employer.

You do not need to apply for the grant.

Grants will automatically be paid by cheque from July but there will be delays for taxpayers whose tax status changed in 2018-19 or who became liable for payroll tax during the 2018-19 or 2019-20 assessment year.

More information can be found at the WA Government COVID-19 website.

Local Government

City of Bayswater

City of Bayswater has encouraged businesses to register with the City’s online business directory.

“Businesses who register with the City will also feature on City’s Instagram page as part of our #buybaysie campaign,” Acting CEO Des Abel told Startup News.

“We will be promoting the ways local businesses have adapted due to the new restrictions and how the community can support them.”

If you are working from home as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic you do not need a permit from the City. The City of Bayswater encourages business owners to contact the City’s Placemakers for assistance.

City of Canning

City of Canning Mayor, Patrick Hall, told Startup News a number of initiatives are in the pipeline to support local businesses.

“We are investigating how we can work in unison with the federal and state stimulus packages to support residents and local businesses doing it tough, including new Financial Hardship Guidelines,” said City of Canning Mayor Patrick Hall.

“These will come before Council for a decision and we will keep our community updated when we know more.” .

The City is now delivering a number of workshops and initiatives directed at businesses online, and last week launched a Business in Focus podcast to provide information and support the City’s local business community.

Mayor Hall also told Startup News: “Our acclaimed Business Mentoring Program has moved to an online delivery model. It is a program that provides free mentoring support for local businesses, big and small, who need a helping hand. Applications close 24 April and applications are coming in fast. More information is available at www.canning.wa.gov.au/BMP.”

Frequent updates can also be found in the City’s Business in Focus eNewsletter. This can be found at www.canning.wa.gov.au/business

City of Kwinana

The City of Kwinana has told Startup News that: “The City has partnered with Business Foundations to provide one-on-one advice to small businesses in the area and to help them plan their cash flows, plan for impact and to understand their employment obligations.”

Mayor Carol Adams also strongly encouraged businesses “to take advantage of the free resources available through the Small Business Corporation of Western Australia, who can assist them in understanding how to develop and idea into a new business as conditions improve.”

The City will also have a website page specifically for local businesses during COVID-19 made available shortly.

City of Stirling

The City of Stirling has introduced a dedicated Small Business Information Hotline on (08) 9205 8904 to provide businesses with advice and assistance.

Verge permit fees are being removed, and the City will reduce the amount of money tied up in verge bonds by up to $1,000. Existing verge bonds will also be refunded by up to $1,000 to allow more cash flow.

Rent abatement and rent deferral has been made available for commercial lessees in City owned buildings who have been negatively impacted by social distancing measures.

The City is temporarily ceasing collection on businesses with rate payment plans in place and removing interest charges.

City of Stirling is also partnering with Business Foundations to provide tailored one-on-one advice on business continuity planning, identifying and reducing financial pressures, and implementing immediate business strategies.

The opportunity is a 1 hour strategic review of your business, with additional sessions on cash flow, expenditure, sales and marketing also available.

Businesses with under 20 employees, have an ABN and operate in City of Stirling can apply by email to the city at EconomicDevelopment@stirling.wa.gov.au, with the following details:

  • BUSINESS NAME:
  • TYPE OF BUSINESS:
  • ABN:
  • BUSINESS OWNER / CONTACT:
  • BUSINESS ADDRESS:
  • NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES:
  • PHONE NUMBER:
  • EMAIL:

Startup Hubs (Western Australia)

Image – Spacecubed

Spacecubed

Spacecubed will continue to be bringing opportunities and events right to your virtual doorstop.

The World is your Elevator event, helping people looking for new business connections will be running on Thursday 2 April, bringing you 20 new connections in 20 minutes.

Friday 3 April, Virtual Happy Hour Launch Party will be running, and other learning opportunities can be found on the Spacecubed website.

Other Spacecubed programs going digital include:

  • Sprint, the eight-week pre-accelerator. It is now free and starts 6 April. The program is sold out to general public but 4 exclusive spaces for Spacecubed members are available.
  • She Codes Virtual Coding Party is still running, and although sold out, the waitlist is available here.

Spacecubed also recently launched their #AdaptDontStop campaign “to shine a light on these founders who need support to pivot their existing business strategy in order to survive during this time of uncertainty.”

The campaign includes:

  • An online post it board where anyone will be able to post their challenges. Users can respond, and Spacecubed can create or curate content to fill the gap and answer the challenges.
  • Mentorship. Mentors and mentees can apply to Spacecubed. Please contact Spacecubed at adaptdontstop@spacecubed.com .
  • Free bootcamps will also be made available to support entrepreneurs, business owners and professionals. The first bootcamp on 16 April can be found here.
  • Other tools and services can be found on the main Spacecubed #AdaptDontStop landing page.

Banks

The Australian Banking Association (ABA) has assured banks are able to help the vast majority of businesses during this pandemic.

In short, the available assistance measures are:

  • Deferral of scheduled loan repayments
  • Waiving of fees and charges
  • Interest free periods or no interest rate increases
  • Debt consolidation to help make repayments more manageable

The business relief package is available to business customers of participating banks, with total business loan facilities of up to $10 million where you advise your bank your business is affected by COVID-19.

This is the major criterion, however banks will have their own eligibility criteria. Please contact your bank for this information.

The loan deferrals are for six months for businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Business relief also applies to sole traders.

Businesses will be able to self-assess whether their business has been adversely impacted by the pandemic. No further verification will be required.

You apply directly to your bank for deferrals and assistance, and the ABA state that a fast track approval process will provide support as soon as possible.

Participating Banks include: AMP, ANZ, abal banking, Bank Australia, Bank of Melbourne, Bank of Sydney, BOQ, bankSA, BankWest, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Citi, Commonwealth Bank, HSBC, ING, Macquarie Bank, me, MyStateBank, nab, Rural Bank, Rabobank, St. George, Suncorp, U Bank, and Westpac.

*This list may be updated in the future. For up to date information on participating banks, please see the ABA website for more.

Other assistance including help with mortgages are available.

Some banks are now offering home loan repayment deferrals for up to six months.

The federal government $20b underwriting scheme (SME Loan Guarantee) also means not only can businesses borrow at this time, there are very low interest rates available.


The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publication, and notes that this is a dynamic situation.

We strive to ensure you have the right information, however, for the most up to date information, please see the relevant links provided.

The information provided here does not consider you personal or business circumstances. Please speak to a qualified professional to see what measures are right for you and your business.