The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has welcomed the changes made to the JobKeeper eligibility criteria which aim to support more Victorian small businesses impacted by tighter restrictions as COVID-19 continues to heavily impact the state.
“The adjustments to the eligibility criteria will be a necessary lifeline, particularly to those small businesses in Victoria that were able to re-open when restrictions eased after the first wave, but are now impacted by tighter restrictions in response to the second wave,” Carnell said.
“The changes also allow struggling small businesses to get JobKeeper payments for new staff who have been employed since 1 July.”
Under the new guidelines, small businesses need only to provide proof that their business experienced a significant reduction in turnover in the September quarter compared to the same quarter last year, instead of the two quarters of decline that were required to be eligible in the previous guidelines.
While the changes to JobKeeper will apply nationwide, Victorian small businesses are expected to be the recipients of 80 per cent of the additional $15 billion to be allocated to the program.
“There’s no doubt the latest round of restrictions has been devastating for Victorian small businesses and the broader economy,” Carnell said. “The federal government’s commitment ‘to keep Australians in jobs and businesses in business’ will give small businesses a much-needed confidence boost at this very difficult time.”
The Ombudsman believes that small businesses will be reassured by the government’s pledge to continue supporting them so they can get through the crisis, although further tweaks may be required to achieve that aim.
“In light of the restrictions imposed on small businesses in Melbourne and surrounds, the government should delay its plans to taper JobKeeper payments from the end of next month,” Carnell said.
“The reality is that these small businesses won’t be back on their feet by 28 September, when payments will be reduced and commercial rent deferrals are scheduled to expire.”