The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has impacted most businesses in Australia. Many businesses have closed, or significantly altered operations, and business owners across Australia may be feeling an increased level of worry – for their businesses, and their employees.
If you’ve been affected by a loss in revenue, are refocussing your business to survive in a new way, or are considering letting staff go, the Government’s business financial relief measures may help.
With a lot of announcements being made – it can be hard to know what financial support is available to your business and how long it’s available. Here’s a summary of some of the options you can explore, and may be eligible for, depending on your personal situation.
What financial support is available for businesses?
The Australian Government is supporting businesses to manage cash flow challenges and retain employees through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This assistance includes cash flow support and temporary measures to provide relief for financially distressed businesses.
The JobKeeper payment is a wage subsidy program. It’s designed to help businesses significantly impacted by COVID-19 to cover the costs of their employees’ wages, so more Australians can retain their jobs and continue to earn an income. This assistance will not only help businesses to keep people in their jobs, but also restart when the crisis is over. If your business is eligible, you’ll be able to claim a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee for up to 6 months from 30 March 2020.
Your business, (including not-for-profits) will be eligible for the payment if:
- It has an annual turnover of less than $1 billion and you estimate your turnover has fallen, or is likely to, by 30% or more
- It has an annual turnover of $1 billion or more (or is part of a consolidated group for income tax purposes with a turnover of $1 billion or more) and you estimate your turnover has or fallen, or is likely to, by 50% or more
- It’s not subject to the Major Bank Levy.
Initially, you could register your interest. However, the close date for this was 30 March 2020. If you didn’t register in time don’t worry, you can still apply online when this option becomes available.
Make sure you register now for JobKeeper updates, so you can be alerted when the next application process opens.
Boosting cash flow support for small and medium-sized businesses
The Government is providing a temporary, tax-free cash flow boost of up to $100,000 for eligible small and medium-sized businesses, and not-for-profits (NFPs) that employ people. This is to help with your cash flow so you can keep operating, pay your rent, electricity and other bills, and retain staff.
It will be done through 2 sets of cash flow boosts, with the first delivered from 28 April 2020, through credits in your business activity statement system. Eligible businesses don’t need to apply with a separate form.
Your business will be eligible for the cash flow boost providing it’s a small or medium-sized business entity – including not-for-profits, sole traders, partners, companies or trusts – that:
- Held an ABN on 12 March 2020 and continues to be active
- Has an aggregated annual turnover under $50 million (generally based on prior year turnover)
- Made eligible payments that the business is required to withhold from (even if the amount required to be withheld is $0).
Temporary relief safety net for financially distressed businesses
If your business has been profitable and viable and faces financial distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government is providing a safety net to make sure that when the crisis has passed you can return to normal business operations.
This safety net is temporarily increasing the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on your company, as well as the time your company must respond to any statutory demand you receive.
The package also includes temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent, and providing temporary flexibility in the Corporations Act (2001) to provide short-term and targeted relief from provisions of the Act to deal with unforeseen events that arise as a result of the Coronavirus health crisis1.
Increasing the instant asset write-off
The Government is increasing the instant asset write-off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expanding eligibility to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020.
Backing business investment with depreciation deductions
The Government is providing a time-limited,15-month investment incentive (through to 30 June 2021) to support business investment and economic growth over the short term, by accelerating depreciation deductions.
Supporting apprentices and trainees
If you own a small business and have apprentices or trainees, you may be eligible for a wage subsidy of 50% of the apprentice’s, or trainee’s wage paid during the 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. If eligible, you’ll be reimbursed up to a maximum of $21,000 per eligible apprentice or trainee ($7,000 per quarter).
Your small business will be eligible if you employ fewer than 20 employees and retain an apprentice or trainee. The apprentice or trainee must’ve been in training with your business at 1 March 2020.
Additional help for businesses
In addition to the Government, many banks have a number of initiatives to support businesses impacted by COVID-19, including deferring loan repayments, waiving fees and charges, and interest free periods. Depending on the institution, this may include:
- Deferral of principal and interest payments on business loans for up to 6 months
- Relaxed lending criteria, such as Government-underwritten unsecured loans (up to a certain amount)
- Pausing and/or reducing monthly business credit card repayments
- Waiving late fees
- Providing hardship assistance.
If you require support, contact your bank to see how they can help, or visit the Australian Banking Association’s website for more information.
SuperFriend and mental health support
AustralianSuper values the work of SuperFriend who helps organisations to build positive, supportive and mentally well workplaces. They have a range of resources, including a COVID-19 support kit to help businesses during this time.
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