COSBOA notes the expanded COVID-19 restrictions in Greater Sydney and the state of NSW that were announced yesterday. The organisation is calling on the NSW Government to immediately release a business support package for SMEs.
COSBOA Interim CEO Alexi Boyd said “We’re calling for an immediate and easy-to-access support package to give small businesses the essential assistance that they need to manage their way out of the current lockdown. The biggest concern with lockdowns is the impact on business cashflow. With no income coming in the door, business owners must still pay ongoing costs like wages, rent, mortgages, and energy bills. Without essential financial assistance, this current lockdown may by the final straw for some businesses.
“For hospitality businesses like cafes and restaurants, there is the added financial loss from being unable to sell perishable stock purchased before the lockdown, many having done so in anticipation of increased business during the NSW school holidays. We know that during the 3-day Brisbane lockdown in January the hospitality industry alone had to throw out $8 million worth of produce. It’s blow after blow, which some previously thriving businesses may not be able to survive – both financially and mentally.
“During the NSW Northern Beaches lockdown, small business’ hardship was exacerbated by the length of time to get cashflow support. We must learn from this experience and provide support as swiftly as possible.”
Ms Boyd added “we would also like to see financial support for businesses in regional New South Wales. They may not be under the same strict lockdown rules as Greater Sydney, but many regional accommodation and hospitality businesses would have been gearing up for increased trading as Sydneysiders travelled out of Sydney for the school holidays. This investment will now be lost.”
Ms Boyd concluded “We shouldn’t be figuring out the details of business support in the midst of a crisis. We’re 16 months into the pandemic now and while we need to be guided by the health experts, we’ve known about the risks of additional outbreaks and lockdowns for a long time. Lockdowns must be advanced used consistent definitions of what constitutes an essential businesses as well as applying consistent and clear eligibility criteria for business support.”
COSBOA has been calling for a nationally consistent, standardised approach to COVID-19 restrictions and financial support for businesses since March 2020. Inconsistency between states was a common complaint raised by industry association leaders in COSBOA’s Small Business Perspective survey and report. The report concluded that ‘Nationally agreed arrangements [on the enforced closure of non-essential businesses] based on evidence that accommodate consultation and provide consistency (and certainty of timing) are required so that small businesses can be prepared.’
When the latest Melbourne lockdown was announced in late May, we called for the National Cabinet to create a nationally consistent financial support program for businesses affected by local COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdown. We welcomed the Federal Government’s subsequent announcement of the Temporary COVID Disaster Payment but noted this was only for workers and recommended additional support for businesses.