Sole trader and real estate buyer’s agent Wendy Chamberlain is taking a stand, after Melbourne’s latest restrictions have significantly impacted her livelihood. She recently launched a petition to pressure the Victorian government to help sole traders that do not have employees.
The state government has drawn a lot of criticism for excluding sole traders from its Business Support Fund, which offers grants of $5,000 to affected small businesses.
The government has argued that sole traders are eligible for both JobSeeker and JobKeeper, while the Business Support Fund is specifically targeted at employing businesses that have been impacted by stay-at-home restrictions.
However, Ms Chamberlain and hundreds of her peers believe the government is failing these Victorian sole traders, who still have fixed costs to service but no support.
“Take myself, I don’t have employees but my assistant is a contractor. So, while she is not employed by me, I do support by way of a contract [with] another Victorian person. I am still putting money in her pocket and she is then putting that into the economy,” Ms Chamberlain told MyBusiness.
As of midday Monday, Ms Chamberlain’s petition counted over 1,450 signatures and was growing by the minute.
“If you have a look at all the comments on the petition, which I had to stop reading because I was getting so upset, all different types of businesses have been affected. There is even somebody from the funeral industry that has to shut up shop,” Ms Chamberlain said.
She argued that many sole traders, like herself, have effectively been cut off from earning an income.
“Yes, we can register for JobKeeper and JobKeeper, does help to some point. But it doesn’t near enough cover it,” Ms Chamberlain said.
And Ms Chamberlain is not alone, with many sole traders taking to Twitter over the past week to air their grievances.
One user said: “There $5,000 dollar grants to businesses, but as a sole trader, with no staff, I can’t get the grant. I haven’t worked on a full show since last year. I had one for September but now it is postponed. #funtimes”.
Another added: “As a sole trader I am being forced to shut down and stop work by @DanielAndrewsMP and @JaalaPulford and will receive NO @VicGovAu financial assistance for the 6 weeks. Yet both these and my local member @NStaikos are about to receive a pay rise! Seem fair?”
Ultimately, Ms Chamberlain called for unity, urging everyone to “work together”.
“The time has come for all small business and sole traders, whether or not they’re employing people, to receive the same support, to receive some support,” Ms Chamberlain said.
Recently, Martin Pakula, the Victorian minister for industry support and recovery, told 2GB radio that the government could not afford to extend the grants to sole traders.
“In the first trance of Business Support Funds, we paid out $10,000 to 77,000 businesses. If we included sole traders, that number would have at least doubled, probably quadrupled,” Mr Pakula said.
“We simply don’t have the capacity to do that.”