COVID-19 Updates – What you need to know

COVID-19 Updates – What you need to know

For regular news updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Smart Energy Industry please monitor this page and our social media channels.

"Confidence and communication through this crisis are absolutely critical" – John Grimes, CEO, Smart Energy Council

Breaking News & Health Information

For an overview of the Federal Governments programs to support businesses click here, and for State and Territory Governments click here.

 

Supporting businesses to retain jobs (last updated 30 March 2020)

The Australian Government will provide a historic wage subsidy to around 6 million workers who will receive a flat payment of $1,500 per fortnight through their employer, before tax.

The payment will be open to elligible businesses that receive a significant financial hit caused by the coronavirus.

The payment will provide the equivalent of around 70 per cent of the median wage.

For more information: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet_supporting_businesses_1.pdf

Government boost JobSeeker partner threshold, new restrictions come into force

The Federal Government announced a $130 billion package to support as many as 6 million Australian workers whose livelihoods have been hit by the pandemic.

At the centre of that is a $1,500-per-fortnight JobKeeper payment for employees of businesses who have lost 30 per cent (or 50 per cent for businesses with annual earnings of $1 billion). The idea is that the employer pay the employees this flat rate, provided they were on the books as of March 1, and the Government would reimburse those businesses.

Not for profits, charities and other things of that nature are included.

People eligible for to receive the $1,500 payment include:

  • Full-time workers
  • Part-time workers
  • Casual employees who have been with their employer for at least 12 months
  • Sole traders
  • New Zealanders on 444 visas

This measure will be delivered through the Australian Taxation Office so as to continue using existing infrastructure rather than create a new mechanism.

As far as JobSeeker goes, people cannot claim both, so if you have already applied for JobSeeker but would like to go to JobKeeper instead, Scott Morrison suggested speaking to your employer so you can be moved across to this new payment.

However, if you're only claiming JobSeeker, the partner pay income test, which was once restricted to an annual wage around $40,000, has now been boosted to just under $80,000.

For more information: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet_supporting_businesses_1.pdf 

Changes To Foreign Investment Framework (last updated 30 March 2020)

Effective from today, all proposed foreign investments into Australia subject to the Foreign Aquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 will require approval, regardless of value or the nature of the foreign investor.

For more information on this: https://joshfrydenberg.com.au/latest-news/changes-to-foreign-investment-framework/

Supporting sole traders through the effects of Coronavirus (last updated 27 March 2020)

The Morrison Government is expanding the eligibility criteria for JobSeeker Payment to support sole traders and Australians who are self-employed if their income is negatively affected by the economic impact of the Coronavirus.

Under temporary changes to social security rules, sole traders will be encouraged to keep their business operating but may be able to access income support should their earnings take a significant hit.

The changes mean that sole traders who were now eligible for JobSeeker or Youth Allowance (other) would also receive the $550 fortnightly Coronavirus supplement.

Previously to determine if a self-employed person was unemployed for the purpose of accessing social security payments they had to be genuinely willing to seek and be available to take up alternative work effectively requiring their business to close.

This test has been temporarily removed to allow sole traders to continue operating. Income testing will apply consistent with current arrangements which allows individuals to earn more than $1000 per fortnight before losing access to payment.

Under the temporary arrangements a range of JobSeeker Payment eligibility criteria has been relaxed including waiving the assets test, liquid assets waiting period, seasonal work preclusion period and newly arrived residents’ waiting period.

To read the full media release click here.

COVID-19 – Queensland Border Restrictions – Energy Sector (last updated 26/03/20)

Entry into the state of Queensland will be restricted from 12:01am, 26 March 2020 to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

There are exemptions for the movement of goods and essential services and for travel to and from work, education and child care in border communities, and other critical activities. There are also exemptions granted on compassionate grounds.

The energy sector supplies electricity, gas and fuel that is critical in protecting the health and safety of Queenslanders in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure the continuity of energy supply, there are exemptions for the movement of essential people, goods and services.

Under the Chief Health Officer’s Border Restriction Direction, energy has been classified as an essential goods and service.

In recognition of this critical role, exemptions will apply to workers across the energy sector supply chain. An exempt person must meet the following relevant criteria:

  • transporting goods or freight such as fuel or gas
  • working on maintenance/repair to critical infrastructure in Queensland.

Exemptions apply for fly in fly out (FIFO)/drive in drive out (DIDO) workers in commercial construction, fishing, mining, energy or agribusiness industries to work in Queensland without having to undertake self-quarantine. To do this:

  • You will need to have details that provide evidence that you are a FIFO/DIDO worker including who you work for, the location of your worksite or work camp and that you are entering Queensland to go directly to work.
  • The company you work for will also have to provide Queensland Health with a Health Planthat complies with requirements set by the Chief Health Officer. More information is available on the Queensland Health (QH) website.

For more information click here for the Health plan and here for FAQs.

The Smart Energy Council will continue to follow this pandemic and monitor its effects on our industry. For further information click here.

WattClarity published their first thoughts on the possible impacts of COVID-19 on Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM):  http://www.wattclarity.com.au/articles/2020/03/1st-thoughts-on-covid-19/

On 19 March the Smart Energy Council held a webinar about COVID-19 and its impact on the Household and Commercial Solar and Storage Markets. Click here to watch.


Support for businesses:

Australian Government –

For latest information, including the Prime Minister’s press conferences and media releases: https://www.pm.gov.au

Update (23/03/19) from Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash:

HELPLINE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY COVID-19

From today, the Morrison Government’s Business Hotline - 13 28 46 - will be expanded to provide specialist advisers and extended hours to support small and medium businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Operations at the www.business.gov.au 13 28 46 Contact Centre will increase from five days per week to seven days per week, and provide an additional two hours a day of support outside standard operating hours for the first month, answering calls from 7.00am to 11.00pm AEST.

The Government has announced a second stage of measures, please find links below for further updates on the assistance for businesses as a result of the impacts of COVID-19 –

Australian Government Support to Keep Australians in Jobs

The Australian Government is giving businesses a cash payment of up to $100,000 for the period March 2020 to September 2020.

That payment will be worth 100% of the tax those small and medium businesses, with a turnover less than $50 million, are withholding from their employees salary and wages.

The payment will be tax free. It will now also be available to eligible charities or other not-for-profit entities.

How the Payment Works

Eligible businesses that withhold tax to the ATO on their employees’ salary and wages – they report it each month or quarter anyway - will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of the amount withheld, up to a maximum payment of $100,000.

Eligible businesses that pay salary and wages will receive a minimum payment of $20,000, even if they are not required to withhold tax.

In our first package we announced the cash payment would be 50% of tax withheld worth up to $25,000 in payments or a minimum of $2,000.

Supporting Small Business to Get to the Other Side With Loans

The Australian Government has announced a new Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme to support small and medium business with a turnover less than $50 million.

This measure complements the $8 billion worth of measures the banks announced this week to defer repayments for 6 months for small and medium businesses battling the impacts of coronavirus.

The Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme will be able to be accessed by eligible banks and non-bank lenders.

- Treasury.gov – Government to invest up to $15B in support of SME lending announced – 22/03/20
- Australian Banking Association – Australian banks will defer loan repayments for small businesses affected by COVID-19 for six months – 20/03/20
- Reserve Bank of Australia – Term Funding Facility to Support Lending to Australian Businesses – 19/03/20

COVID-19 Relief for State and Territories:

 
ACT

$137 Million stimulus package – will target vulnerable households and small businesses (last updated 28/03/20) – for more information: https://apps.treasury.act.gov.au/budget/covid-19-economic-survival-package

  • $622 credit to commercial rates bill
  • $750 rebate to small businesses through their next electricity bill
  • Businesses with a turnover of up to $10 Million will be able to defer payroll tax for 12 months
  • Affected industries will receive a one-off six month waiver on payroll tax
  • Taxi and rideshare fees waived
  • Food and liquor licence fees waived
  • $20 Million fund for simple infrastructure works on public buildings
  • Funding for clubs to retain casual staff
  • Public sector staff in events or entertainment redeployed to maintenance works

Community:

  • $500,000 in arts grant funding brought forward
  • $7 Million package for non-government organisations to meet increased demand for social services
 
NEW SOUTH WALES

$6.36 Billion health boost and economic stimulus (last updated 28/03/20) – for more information: https://preview.nsw.gov.au/covid-19

  • $4 Billion in deferral of payroll tax for business with payrolls over $10 million for six months
  • $1 Billion Working for NSW fund to sustain business, create new jobs and retrain employees including $250 million to employ additional cleaners of public infrastructure.
  • $500 Million to bring forward capital works and maintenance.
  • $450 Million for the waiver of payroll tax for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for three months (the rest of 2019-20).
  • More than $250 Million to bring forward maintenance on public assets.
  • Payroll tax cuts by raising the threshold limit to $1 Million.
  • $80 Million to waive a range of fees and charges for small businesses.
  • $34 Million boost in funding to prevent homelessness.
  • $30 Million to boost the Energy Accounts Payments Assistance scheme.
  • $10 Million to support charities.
  • $6 Million additional funding for Lifeline’s operations in NSW.
  • Deferral of gaming tax for clubs, pubs and hotels, and lotteries tax for six months, conditional on these funds being used to retain staff.
  • Deferral of the parking space levy for six months.
  • Deferral of rents for six months for commercial tenants with less than 20 employees in all Government-owned properties.
 
NORTHERN TERRITORY

$60 Million stimulus package to support Territorians (last updated 28/03/20) – for more information: https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/

·        $30 Million Home Improvement Scheme - $6000 grant for Territory homeowners and landlords who also contribute $2000, and a $4000 grant with a $1000 contribution.

·        $20 Million Business Improvement Scheme. All eligible businesses will receive a $10,000 grant. If the recipient also wants to put in their own $10,000, they will then get an additional $10,000 from the Government ($30,000 in total).

·        $5 Million Business Structural Adjustment package to assist businesses who need to physically adjust to the 100 person rule or to establish or upgrade their online presence to adjust to changing behaviours of consumption.

·        $5 Million Immediate Works Grants Package reintroduces the Immediate Works Grant for incorporated not-for-profit and community organisations – including clubs - to undertake repairs, renovations and upgrades to their premises/facilities

·        Freezing Government Fees and Charges and Electricity Prices

 
QUEENSLAND

$4 Billion stimulus package to support Queenslanders (last updated 28/03/20) – for more information: https://www.qld.gov.au/

  • $2.5 Billion for workers and industry,
  • $740 Million in immediate payroll tax refunds,
  • A payroll tax holiday and deferral until the end of 2020 for eligible businesses,
  • A two-month refund of payroll tax, giving an average of nearly $9,000 cash,
  • A three-month payroll tax holiday, saving an average of $13,360,
  • No Queensland business impacted by COVID-19 will have to make a payroll tax payment this year.
  • Up to $500 Million to assist workers who lose their job or income with retraining, job-matching and other help to transition.
  • $1.2 Billion for health to increase the capacity of Queensland's health system to confront COVID-19.
  • $300 Million for households

Queensland Government Business and Industry support

The Queensland Government will invest an additional $4 billion in measures to support Queenslanders’ health, their jobs and businesses. The Palaszczuk Government has announced it will refund two months’ worth of payroll tax for small and medium businesses and large businesses specifically impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, it is giving small and medium businesses a three-month payroll tax holiday, and a further six-month payroll tax deferral for any of these Queensland businesses.

The Queensland Government has also established a dedicated small business hotline 1300 654 687.

Update: Queensland/NSW border
 
The Queensland Premier has confirmed that “essential services, lawful businesses and trade will not be impacted” by the Queensland/NSW border restrictions.
 

More information at: http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2020/3/24/palaszczuk-government-unveils-4-billion-package-to-support-health-jobs-households-and-queensland-businesses

For continued updates in Queensland: https://www.qld.gov.au/about/industry-recovery/business-and-industry-support

 
SOUTH AUSTRALIA

$1 Billion stimulus package to support South Australians (last updated 28/03/20) – for more information: https://www.sa.gov.au/covid-19

  • $300 Million Business and Jobs Support Fund
  • $250 Million Community and Jobs Fund
  • Payroll tax relief Up to $60 million
  • $50 Million for the Planning and Development Fund available this year, up from $25 million
  • $30 Million for Cost of Living Concessions
  • $15 Million investment in upgrades at our country hospitals.
  • $12 Million skills package to boost local jobs,
  • Supermarkets granted 24-hour weekday trade option and extended weekends in response to Coronavirus.
  • Waiver of liquor licence fees for 2020-21 for those hotels, restaurants, cafes and clubs forced to close as a result of new social distancing restrictions.

Full details at https://www.premier.sa.gov.au/news/media-releases/news/$1-billion-stimulus-package-to-save-sa-jobs,-businesses

 
TASMANIA

$420 Million support package to keep Tasmanians in jobs (last updated 28/03/20) – for more information: https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/

  • $50 Million allocated to fast track maintenance on public buildings over the next 12 months.
  • $20 Million in interest free loans to small businesses in the hospitality, tourism, seafood production, and exports sectors with turnovers less than $5 million.
  • Payroll tax liabilities will be waived for hospitality, tourism and seafood industry businesses for the last four months of 2019-20. Other businesses with payrolls of up to $5 Million will be able to apply, based on the impact of virus, to have their payroll tax waived for April to June 2020.
  • Improving small business cash flows by paying bills sooner: unless otherwise required by contractual arrangements, payment terms by Government agencies will be reduced from 30 days to 14 days.
  • The targeted Small Business Grants Program provides a $5,000 grant for businesses that hire an apprentice or trainee in the tourism, hospitality, building and construction, and manufacturing industries.
  • Youth employment Scheme to provides a payroll tax rebate for one year, to businesses that employ a young person aged 24 and under, between April and December 2020.
  • $80,000 will be provided to the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) to provide Human Resources and Industrial Relations assistance associated with the coronavirus to businesses.
 
VICTORIA

$1.7 Billion economic survival and jobs package for Victorians (last updated 28/03) – for more information: https://www.vic.gov.au/coronavirusresponse

  • The Government will provide full payroll tax refunds for 2019-20 financial year to SMEs with payroll of less than $3 Million – giving $550 Million back to businesses who need it.
  • The Government will pay all outstanding supplier invoices within 5 business days.
  • Commercial tenants in government buildings can apply for rent relief; 2020 land tax payments will be deferred for eligible small businesses.
  • $500 Million to establish a Business Support Fund supporting the hardest hit sectors, including hospitality, tourism, accommodation, arts and entertainment, and retail.
  • $500 Million Working for Victoria Fund to help workers who have lost their jobs find new opportunities.

The Victorian government has announced immediate support measures to help businesses through this pandemic, including an Economic Survival Package To Support Businesses And Jobs announced 21/03/20, as well as the Hotline Help For Businesses Dealing With COVID-19 Impacts announced 19/03/20. For more information click here.

 
WESTERN AUSTRALIA

$114 Million in measures to support WA small and medium businesses (last updated 28/03) – for more information: https://www.wa.gov.au/

  • Small and medium businesses whose annual Australian Taxable Wages are between $1 Million and $4 Million will receive a one-off grant of $17,500 to assist them to manage the impacts of COVID-19.
  • The payroll tax threshold will be increased to $1 Million from 1 July 2020, six months earlier than planned - 11,000 WA businesses will benefit from the cut in payroll tax.
  • Small and medium sized businesses affected by COVID-19 can apply to defer payment of their 2019-20 payroll tax until 21 July 2020.
  • The deferral is available to employers who pay $7.5 Million or less in Australian Taxable Wages and have been directly or indirectly impacted by COVID-19, compared to normal operating conditions.
  • Freezing Government Fees and Charges and Electricity Prices

For more information as this unfolds:

 
 
 
 
 
 

Smart Energy Council Webinar on COVID-19 and its impact on the industry

John Grimes, CEO of the Smart Energy Council remarked on COVID-19 and its impact on the industry – click on the thumbnail below to view, or click here.

One Step Off the Grid wrote about the webinar and the impact of COVID-19 on the market in their article – Solar and batteries in demand as Coronavirus encourages shift to “self-reliance”

Watch the full webinar below, or click here: