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Victoria (Australia) government announces $534 million stimulus package

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The state government also established a $20 million fund specifically for businesses in the CBD suffering a major loss as a result of social distancing measures

Victorians (Australia) have been thrown a lifeline by the state government in the form of a $534 million stimulus package, as the state battles a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

The package includes a $5,000 cash grant for struggling businesses, mental health support for business owners, relief for out-of-work tourism operators, and tailored advice for businesses to bounce back on the other side, Victoria treasurer Tim Pallas announced on Friday.

The $5,000 grant is in addition to the $10,000 already given to businesses, according to tourism minister Martin Pakula.

The package will also dedicate $30 million to the hardest-hit businesses in hospitality and Melbourne’s ailing night-time economy, Pallas said.

The state government also established a $20 million fund specifically for businesses in the CBD suffering a major loss in foot traffic as a result of social distancing measures.

This is not a government simply saying this is it and we’re out. This is us saying, ‘we’re here with you all the way through what will be a very traumatic, a very distressing and a very difficult time for all Victorians’, Pallas said.

I apologise for it because this is nowhere where any Victorian wanted to be but it is the reality of the situation that we confront and the obligation upon us all is to put our best efforts towards helping everybody make it through to the other side of this event, he said.

Eligible businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million can also defer their tax liabilities for the first half of the 2020-21 financial year.

This is a testing time for business, Pallas said. It is a testing time for us all.

Pakula said the government had also committed $36 million to a wellbeing program to provide mental health support to businesses during the crisis.

We know how difficult this is for business and the focus of the government is over the next 40 days to get these numbers down as low as possible so that these businesses can return to something approaching normal so we can get that traffic and that activity reemerging in our businesses, he said.

When asked about economic recovery, Pallas said expectations have been lowered. If you’d have asked me a few weeks ago, I would have probably been a little more optimistic, he said. Today, I’m less so.

The treasurer said the six-week lockdown would take around 14 per cent off previous June quarter GDP estimates, meaning the Victorian economy would take up to three years to recover.

We are expecting that there will be literally billions of dollars written off the expected size of the Victorian economy, Pallas said. And the reason for that, of course, is that if businesses are not capable of operating in the way that they would like to, and that’s as a consequence of our social distancing rules…we need to recognise that we have got to get through this as quickly as we can.

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