The stimulus will target business owners likely to be negatively affected by step 2 of the Victorian government’s plan out of lockdown announced last week, said Victorian Minister for Business Precincts Martin Pakula in a press conference.
He said there will be grants of $3,000, which he estimated would support around 33,000 sole traders across the state.
“They will be industries like accommodation and tourism, some non-permitted retail, media and film production, gyms, creative studios, outdoor entertainment, private museums and galleries,” Mr Pakula said.
While he noted that primary income support for sole traders has been provided by the Commonwealth and through JobKeeper, Mr Pakula said the Victorian government has been focusing its efforts primarily on those businesses which employ people in creating a relationship of “complementary support” between it and the federal government.
“The new sole trader initiative is a recognition of the serious challenges that many sole traders have faced,” he said.
“It will allow tens of thousands of them to help pay their overheads — to give them the opportunity to emerge on the other side and recover strongly.”
Recovery fund for Melbourne CBD
In addition, the Victorian government announced a $100 million Melbourne city recovery fund for businesses to move their activities outdoor to fund COVID-safe events and new infrastructure in preparation for the warmer months and as people are welcomed back into the CBD.
The initiative is in partnership with the City of Melbourne and is estimated to support around 16,500 businesses registered in the area.
Of that $100 million fund, $30 million will be provided in grants to small and medium businesses to help pay for tables, plastic screens, umbrellas and all of the apparatus needed for outdoor hospitality to re-configure spaces to convert areas like rooftops and courtyards for outdoor use.
Another $30 million will support COVID-safe events and cultural activities in the CBD aimed at attracting visitors back to the city once it’s safe to do so and once the city is further out of restrictions.
Further, $40 million will go towards physical improvements to the CBD streetscape, including bike lanes, wider footpaths and bollards.
“Those businesses support north of 470,000 jobs, so it’s an incredibly important part of our economy and a lot of those businesses are being enormously impacted by the restrictions which have been required to combat this global pandemic,” Mr Pakula said.
“This will utterly transform the city, and I think not just for this summer. It’s going to be something that I think Victorians will love and appreciate and will create a new al fresco environment for CBD dining which I think will be, I suspect, enjoyed for many summers hence.”
Hospitality support outside the Melbourne CBD
Mr Pakula also announced an $87.5 million outdoor hospitality support package for businesses outside the City of Melbourne. $58 million of that package will be paid in grants of up to $5,000 to businesses to help pay for umbrellas, furniture, screens and advertising.
Those grants will be available to both licensed and unlicensed businesses, restaurants, takeaway food businesses, pubs, bars and clubs with a payroll of under $3 million, of which the Victorian government estimates about 11,000 businesses will be eligible.
The other $30 million will go to local councils to help them implement the streamlined permit enforcement and monitoring processes to support expanded outdoor hospitality.
The grants will be up to $500,000 for metropolitan councils, and those councils which cover regional cities and rural councils will be eligible for grants of up to $250,000.
Under the package, some of that council money can be passed on to businesses in the form of reducing and waiving permit fees as well as investing in infrastructure such as streetscaping.