‘Unprecedented’ support package for Shepparton businesses

By Spencer Fowler Steen

Shepparton businesses have mixed feelings about the Victorian Government's announcement of the "biggest package of business support the state has ever seen".

On Sunday, Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled a $3 billion coronavirus business support package including $1.1 billion in cash grants for small and medium-sized businesses the government says are "most affected" by COVID-19.

Additional grants between $10,000 and $25,000 will be made available to licensed venues such as pubs, clubs, restaurants and hotels in regional Victoria as part of a $251 million Licenced Venue Fund.

Grants of $3000 will be available to sole traders in areas including tourism, accommodation, gyms, media, creative studios and private galleries as part of a $100 million support package for sole traders.

Terminus Hotel owner Greg Brassil said he and his partner, Brooke's, business was set to lose a quarter of its annual revenue due to no Christmas bookings this year.

He hoped the grants would be enough to keep them afloat through Christmas.

“It's unreal — crazy news,” he said.

“Christmas will be grim, but if they're going to give us money it'll keep us going through the end of the year.”

Stellar Coffee owner Matt Kington said although his business had been doing well considering the restrictions, he was disappointed his café would be ineligible for the licenced venue grant.

“It was great to see another olive branch extended but I was personally disappointed,” he said.

“It's tough because if I had a liquor licence I would get more support, but I understand pubs have been hit really hard and they deserve a little extra.

“As a small business owner, I would rather be trading and back to normal — I want to get my business up and running.”

While Aussie Hotel owner Paul Tsorbaris welcomed the support, he said it wasn't enough.

“Every bit is going to help, something’s better than nothing, but it’s certainly not enough,” he said.

“This last lockdown has cost us a fortune.

“I’m probably one of the lucky ones who can absorb it, but there’ll be those that can’t.”

Grants of $5000, $15,000 and $20,000 will be available for small to medium businesses.

Mr Andrews said the support was on top of the $3 billion already available to businesses, effectively doubling the contribution.

“We've never seen anything like this before. It is an unprecedented set of challenges that businesses face,” he said.

“I understand that businesses are desperate, not just for profits, but for their people. They are desperate to open up,” he said.

“But being opened for a very short amount of time is not the strategy. It is not the reward that Victorians are entitled to, given how much sacrifice they've made.”

Mr Andrews said the government was aiming to open grant applications this week via the Business Victoria website.

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