Government steps up for small business

23 January, 2020 by Deborah Jackson

The Morrison Government has announced a suite of measures to immediately support small businesses that have been affected by the bushfire crisis.

Across the country, there are many liquor retailers affected by the natural disaster. A lot of these are small, family-owned and operated businesses, who have either lost their homes and businesses or have suffered an indirect economic loss due to a loss of tourism over the busy Christmas trading period.

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A joint statement from PM Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenber, and Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Michaelia Cash, says: “Our immediate priorities for small businesses include grant funding, concessional loans, tax relief, a dedicated and single contact point to help them access the support that is available, and financial counselling services that are targeted to help small and family business owners deal with the emotional and financial challenges they face.”

The grant funding will allow businesses that have sustained damage as a result of fires able to access up to $50,000 in tax free grant funding.

Loans of up to $500,000 will be offered for businesses that have suffered significant asset loss or a significant loss of revenue. The loan would be for up to 10 years and used for the purposes of restoring or replacing damaged assets and for working capital.

And the Government will deliver $3.5 million to establish the Small Business Bushfire Financial Support Line as well as to fund 10 additional financial counsellors with the ability to provide advice to around 100 small businesses a day.

While the specialist Support Line is being established, businesses can visit www.business.gov.au or call 13 28 46.

The Commissioner of Taxation has also agreed to provide a range of assistance measures to businesses in identified bushfire-impacted postcodes to help to alleviate cash flow pressures and assist these businesses with their recovery efforts.

Showing their support

Gavin Saunders, CEO, Liquor Marketing Group (LMG) told National Liquor News that their members had been spared from a loss of assets, but the loss of tourism in affected areas has been a heavy burden.

“Fortunately, our retailers impacted have managed to protect their assets from the bushfire threat. However, as you note, the power outages, communities impacted and the reduction in tourist trade are all great impacts at a critical time of year for these regions,” he said.

“Bottlemart and Sip’n Save are working with our members in communities impacted, including Cobargo, Ulladulla, Sussex Inlet, Mallacoota, Kangaroo Island, Adelaide Hills and others to support them and will be offering support for a ‘Christmas in January/February’ (dependent on when the fire threat eases) events for the communities and RFS volunteers who missed their Christmas celebrations as they were fighting to save houses and lives during this period.

“Our members will continue to support their communities through the immediate threat and impact of the fires along with the rebuilding and LMG will support our members.”

Chris Baddock, the CEO of ALM, told National Liquor News that while none of their retails stores had been lost, many of their independent retailers had been personally affected in some way, but they are still doing what they can to serve their communities.

“Our independent retailers are the real heroes,” said Baddock. “They play an important role in their communities and this is never more evident than in times like now.

“Despite many of them being personally affected by the fires, they have put serving their community first. Fortunately, no retail stores have been lost across our Food, Liquor and Hardware networks and they are all open and trading.

“In addition to supporting our retailers we are also separately helping the communities that are affected. We are providing emergency support of approximately $600k in the Food business through cash donations from Metcash and our retailers and through the provision of emergency products, as well additional support from our Hardware business including the provision of emergency masks and generators. Logistics support is being providing to Foodbank, in addition to our significant food donations to get much needed resources to those affected. We also have donation programs in Food whereby we are targeting $1m from the sale of our $2 Bushfire Tokens, available in IGA stores, which will be provided to the Vinnie’s Bushfire Appeal. While in Liquor there is a joint initiative with Lion whereby $2 will be donated with the sale of each case of Iron Jack beer.

“Importantly it’s important to understand that the situation remains fluid in some regions, our people and retailers well being is most important, in addition we are working with our retail partners on immediate issues such as ordering while communication in some areas is difficult and with managing deliveries. We are also committed to helping our partners in weeks and months to come, understanding that for many retailers this period would have been their busiest being located in holiday regions.”

#GoWithEmptyEskys

Gareth Southam, BDE in the South Coast of NSW for Independent Liquor Group (ILG) has been one of the driving forces behind the viral #GoWithEmptyEskys campaign, which asks tourists to come back to fire affected areas once it’s safe to do so.

“It’s been devastating to see the loss of homes and wildlife along with Christmas and holiday trade,” Southam told National Liquor News.

“My members are reopening slowly, but the towns are empty and there is no tourist trade. This means it will be hard over winter as well.”

The #GoWithEmptyEskys campaign hopes to revitalise tourism in these affected areas.

“The purpose is to get people back into the devastated communities when they are ready, to spend money, support the local businesses, create a sense of community and give back to devastated towns and families.

“We will be linking with organisations, local tourists’ branches, road trippers, gray nomads and local councils to get people back into these areas.

“While this is born from the bushfire disaster, it is also applicable to drought, flood and any other outback communities struggling.”