By Evelyn Leckie
IT’S mixed offering for local businesses when it comes to the State Government’s $500 million Business Support Fund to support the hardest hit sectors.
Hospitality, tourism, accommodation, arts and entertainment and retail were sectors outlined by the government to receive the fund, but Kilmore’s Ferguson Plarre was rejected for the funding last week.
Owner Aaron Meakins said his application was rejected due to his ABN’s classification not fitting the fund’s eligibility criteria.
“Our ABN is registered under ‘bakery’ and ‘retail,’” Mr Meakins said.
“I can’t think of what industry could be hit more.
“Our clients in Kilmore are mostly of an older generation, who definitely aren’t able go outside at the moment – we’ve seen a huge downturn of our overall earnings.”
On Friday, the State Government announced the criteria for eligible businesses would be expanded to include businesses with a wages bill less than the payroll tax threshold of $650,000.
This applies to businesses who are participating in the Commonwealth JobKeeper program, regardless of the sector they operate in.
Eligibility for the fund will not be expanded to include sole traders, who are covered by JobKeeper.
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said she was concerned the government was finding technicalities to exclude businesses which were initially given the impression they would qualify.
“The fund promised $10,000 grants to Victorian small businesses below the payroll tax threshold which have suffered severe financial damage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but when many small businesses applied, they discovered they were only eligible if their business had been forced to close while certain industry sectors were not eligible,” Ms Ryan said.
“After pressure from The Nationals, on Friday the Government announced it would expand eligibility to all industry sectors – not just a few.”
The State Government announced that businesses who applied for Business Support Fund payments but were initially not eligible based on their sector classification will be contacted by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and do not have to submit a new application.