ACT Government Stimulus Package
The ACT Government has provided a range of support measures for businesses and households in their economic support package. The measures include assistance with property rates, household bills, funding for capital works projects, payroll relief and support for landlords and tenants.
- Rebating the 2019-20 commercial rates fixed charge for properties with an Average Unimproved Value of less than $2 million ($16.2 million) Over 6,400 Commercial rate payers will receive a credit of $2,622 (equivalent to the annual fixed charge) to their 2019-20 general rates, in quarter four of this financial year. Where rate payers have paid in full or have a quarter bill less than the credit, they will receive a refund.
- Providing a $750 rebate to small businesses through their next electricity bill ($9.8 million). Small business owners with electricity usage below 100 megawatts per year will see rebates of $750 automatically applied to their next electricity bill in around June or July 2020. This will apply to approximately 13,000 businesses.
- Payroll Tax Deferrals (nil direct cost, estimated to free up $100 million in cashflow). All ACT businesses with Australia-wide wages of up to $10 million can defer their 2020-21 payroll tax, interest free until 1 July 2022.
- Rapid rollout of ‘screwdriver ready’ minor capital works projects ($20 million). The Government will provide $20 million for minor capital works projects to provide immediate support for small and medium-sized local businesses. It is intended that this fund will be fully utilised in this financial year. The program relates to works that can start immediately, be undertaken using local suppliers and workers, and whether they can be undertaken within social distancing requirements.
- The Government will spend $3 million on fast-tracking urban forest and public realm maintenance. This will redeploy staff who would otherwise have been employed under contract for work and events that are not expected to go ahead, and provide positions for low-skilled, casual workers to undertake paid employment.
- Additional support for the Vocational Education and Training Sector ($2 million). The Government will provide support for the Vocational Education and Training Sector by increasing subsidies for apprenticeships and traineeships and other VET students to access nationally recognised training in areas linked to skills needs across a range of industries.
- Administrative stimulus measures. Early payment of invoices by government ($1.3 million indirect lost interest costs). Recognising the importance of cash flow to small and medium enterprises, the Government will accelerate the payments for invoices for local enterprises.
- Lifeline initiative. Funding to provide Lifeline ACT with an additional $100,000 to bolster its services following a recent spike in calls and to support the mental health wellbeing of Canberrans over the next six months. These funds will allow Lifeline to answer an additional 1,000 calls for help each month, and provide Canberrans experiencing mental distress about COVID-19 resources to help them get through this period.
- A business liaison phone line has been created to assist businesses understand the support available to them through the ACT Economic Survival Package and practical advice for businesses operating through changed arrangements due to COVID-19. The number businesses can call is: 02 6205 0900
Support for the construction industry
Businesses in the construction industry can defer their payroll tax liability for the six months from April to September 2020 to provide cashflow assistance to help them retain workers. No interest will be charged on deferred amounts until 1 September 2020, at which point the Government will assess the impacts of COVID 19 AND determine if a further deferral period is required.
To access the deferral, businesses need to complete a online application form on the ACT Revenue Office website.
The government will also continue to fast track development application approvals to allow work to continue in the ACT’s construction sector. The ACT Government is focussed on keeping as many people employed as possible, and has been working closely with the local construction sector to ensure existing projects progress and new ones are brought online, while also ensuring appropriate protection for workers
Commercial tenancy relief
The government has taken extensive steps to develop a scheme that provides relief for business tenants and owner-operated commercial properties.
There are three broad categories of business emerging through COVID-19:
- Category 1 - Those who have been partially or not affected;
- Category 2 - Those who have been significantly affected (at least 30 per cent reduction in business income); and
- Category 3 - Those who have to shut-down operations due to COVID-19 health restrictions.
Support is being provided through ensuring that the deferral or waiver of rates is targeted based on need which is assessed as per the above and will be targeted at properties with small AUVs.
Commercial landlords will need to play their part, cost-sharing or the deferrals of losses will be shared between Government, landlords, tenants and financial institutions.
Landlords and tenants should work together to reach an agreement that allows the business to bounce-back when the time is right.
The ACT Government will appoint a Commercial Tenancy Mediator (Business Commissioner) to support and encourage commercial landlords and tenants to engage and negotiate mutually agreeable outcomes.