More than 80,000 Victorian businesses hurt by the state’s second coronavirus lockdown have been offered $5000 cash grants.
Treasurer Tim Pallas unveiled a $534 million support package on Friday, including the cash grants for businesses affected by the six-week lockdown of metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.
The package also includes $30 million for the hospitality industry, $20 million for a fund for businesses in the Melbourne CBD, and $40 million for regional tourism businesses to cover the cost of refunds.
Some $6 million will also go to mental health support for business owners.
Mr Pallas said he expected Victoria’s unemployment to rise as high as 11 per cent and gross state produce to fall by 14 per cent following the state’s second COVID lockdown.
With millions of people barred from leaving home for at least six weeks, unless it is for essential shopping, medical care, education or work, many of Victoria’s businesses are expected to suffer. The renewed economic outlook for the state is bleak.
“This a testing time for business. It is a testing time for us all. It is important that we do more than simply provide platitudes of support to the community,” Mr Pallas said.
As Australia appeared to quell the pandemic, Victorian authorities had been “quietly optimistic” that the bleakest predictions for the economic effect in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic would not eventuate.
That had evaporated as Victoria’s virus cases surged in recent weeks, leading to this week’s return to lockdown in metropolitan Melbourne and the adjacent Mitchell shire.
“Clearly, the return to Melbourne to stage three restrictions just isn’t where we want it to be. Really what this will be is a clearly traumatic, a very difficult time for many people,” Mr Pallas said.
“For the pain, for the hardship that people have to endure, I want to be very clear that the government apologises to Victorians for it.”
He said the government had now offered $6 billion in support to Victorians during the pandemic.