Local Business Covid-19 Support Forum – Answers provided by the Minister for Finance & Small Business, to questions raised in the chat

Question : “Will the NSW Government be reintroducing the mandatory code of conduct for commercial and retail leases?”

The below answer has been superceded by the reinstatement of the Mandatory Code of Conduct. Details HERE and HERE.

The Government is considering various options to support commercial and retail landlords and tenants.

Currently, the Retail and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19) Regulation 2021 requires commercial and retail landlords to attempt mediation before locking out or evicting an eligible tenant for certain breaches due to the public health restrictions.

While the Regulation does not make it compulsory for landlords to reduce rent, commercial and retail landlords that do so are eligible for payments of up to 100 per cent of their 2021 land tax.

Question : “What plans are in place to address the shortage of workers in NSW, particularly in the hospitality industry?”

The NSW and Commonwealth Governments have worked together to provide JobSaver which will help businesses retain staff during the Greater Sydney lockdown. This will ensure businesses can bounce back as quickly as possible when restrictions are lifted.

More broadly, the JobTrainer (Skilling for Recovery) program is supporting vocational training and skills development across NSW. The program is designed to support the State’s economic recovery by providing the skills businesses need to sustain our economic development. The program offers fee free and low fee training options to boost skills with full and part qualification course options, as well as personalised support to assist people navigating the skills and training opportunities available in NSW. The program includes hospitality training.

Question : “How did the NSW Government determine the levels for a business’ decline in turnover to be eligible for financial support e.g. the 30%, 50%, and 70% decline in turnover for the Business Support Grants?”

The decline in turnover thresholds are in line with previous support measures offered by the NSW and Commonwealth Governments. These thresholds ensure that government funding goes to businesses that need it the most.

Question : Where can I go to get advice on my commercial or retail lease arrangements and/or to renegotiate my contract?”

If you’re having difficulty negotiating your lease arrangements, the NSW Small Business Commission’s mediation services team can support you to resolve disputes in a cost-effective and non-adversarial way. You can visit their website for more information: https://www.smallbusiness.nsw.gov.au/

Question : “How can I receive support to pay for various fees that do not fall under any of the categories covered by the NSW Government’s Small Business Fees and Charges Rebate scheme?”

Other NSW Government support can be used to cover fees and charges not covered by the rebate scheme. This includes the 2021 COVID-19 Business Grant, the 2021 COVID-19 Micro-business Grant, or JobSaver. All of these programs are currently accepting applications via Service NSW: https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/campaign/covid-19-help-businesses

Question : “Given that it’s likely that the lockdown will be extended in Greater Sydney for some time, is the Government considering any additional financial assistance for small businesses?”

The NSW and Commonwealth Government have committed billions towards COVID-19 support measures for businesses. The 2021 COVID-19 Business Grant, the 2021 COVID-19 Micro-business Grant, and JobSaver are available to a wide range of businesses impacted by restrictions. The ongoing payments provided by the Micro-business grant and JobSaver are being extended to the end of August to cover the extension of the lockdown.

Question : “Why do the current supports have no alternative test to measure revenue fall for a business that has had a material change in circumstances between July 2019 and July 2021? The JobKeeper program last year made provision for this – for example, if a business had opened a second store after July 2019.”

The below answer has been addressed by Govt allowing more flexibility in the criteria for online grant applications through Service NSW. 

The current COVID-19 support measures, including the Business Grant, Micro-business Grant and JobSaver contain flexibility for Service NSW to accept an alternative comparison period where a business cannot meet the eligibility criteria and supporting evidence requirements. These circumstances include:

  • businesses not operating for the full year to 20 June 2020 (e.g. new businesses),
  • businesses affected by drought, bushfires or other natural disasters;
  • business acquisitions, disposals or restructures; and
  • sole trader businesses or small partnerships impacted by sickness, injury or leave.

Businesses in these circumstances should contact Service NSW to determine if an alternative comparison period or alternative supporting evidence can be applied.