The Victorian government will refund and waive payroll tax payments refunded for the rest of this financial year to help businesses survive coronavirus under a $1.7 billion support package.
Businesses with payrolls up to $3 million can expect the refunds within days, Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Saturday.
“This has never happened before; it is unprecedented, it is unique, it is exactly what Victorian businesses have asked for,” he said.
Payroll tax for the first quarter of the next financial year will also be deferred as part of a support package for businesses.
About 24,000 businesses are included in the package.
The package also includes a $500 million fund to support industries hardest hit by the virus and self-isolation.
Just announced a $1.7 billion package to keep struggling businesses afloat and wages flowing.
Press conference looked a little different. pic.twitter.com/AFvjxWAwUl
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) March 21, 2020
It will include hardship payments and small grants with allocation determined in partnership with the state government, Australian Hotels Association, Australian Industry Group and other sector groups, Mr Andrews said.
He said another $600 million will be spent on a range of measures including waiving liquor licence payments – worth $30 million – due at the end of this month.
“That is $30 million well spent to send confidence and cash in effect back to those businesses,” Mr Andrews said.
It will also be spent re-employing people who have lost their jobs into virus-related work, including delivering packages, cleaning trains and trams.
“It just makes common sense to re-employ people who find themselves out of work in order to give them the prospects that they need, the support they need and for us to get the tasks that are so important done,” he said.
Further support for households hasn’t been ruled out, Mr Andrews said.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Paul Guerra said the “cash in the pocket, straight away” approach to the small business payroll tax refund was the right thing to do.
“It’s exactly what business needed: some certainty to enable them to get through the next period. We hope business then applies this back to their employees, to give them some certainty as well.”
Meanwhile Victorian public school holidays will be extended by two days to allow teachers to make plans for flexible learning arrangements, including remote learning.
The days off will bookend holidays, with the final day of term one now Thursday March 26.
Students will come back for term two from Wednesday April 15.
Mr Andrews said Victorian schools would remain open until expert advice said otherwise.
“My kids are at school, the chief health officer’s kids are at school,” he said.
“That’s the medical advice, that’s the advice of experts. That could change – if it does, you will be the first to know.”
He also called on people to continue to follow other health advice including washing hands, isolating if they exhibit symptoms and social distancing.
While frustrating, those measures would save lives, he said.
“There is no joking about this. If we don’t flatten the curve and suppress the number of people testing positive and the spread of the virus, hospitals will be overwhelmed and that means people will die,” he said.
The number of confirmed case in Victoria increased by 51 overnight to 229.
They include a police officer in Suburban Melbourne and a second Melbourne University staff member who returned from overseas before the government’s mandatory quarantine period for travellers.
Australia’s borders closed on Friday night, meaning non-Australian residents, citizens or immediate family members travelling from overseas are no longer permitted entry.