COVID support grants: Scores of WA small businesses miss out on $3000

Peter Law, The West Australian
Mark McGowan
Mark McGowan Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

Scores of small businesses that were forced to close or slash capacity limits during Perth’s third COVID lockdown in the past six months will receive no compensation from the McGowan Government.

Applications have opened for $3000 grants, but tourism-reliant businesses such as wineries, breweries, distillers, wildlife parks, museums, tour guides, coach services and vehicle rental firms were excluded.

Other employers to miss out on financial support include specialty retail stores, physiotherapy, remedial massage clinics and allied health professionals, as well as certain manufactures.

Tourism Council WA said its members on average lost $36,800 during the shutdown, which eliminated an outbreak of the Delta variant but resulted in restrictions throughout the school holidays.

To be eligible, businesses must have a turnover of more than $75,000 and a payroll under $4 million and suffered a financial loss through cancelled bookings or food wastage, or a 30 per cent drop in turnover.

The rules also restrict payments to companies who fall under certain industry categories selected by the Government — such as a restaurant, pub, accommodation, amusement park or performing arts venue.

Tourism Council chief executive Evan Hall said the list excluded many attractions, tours and experiences which suffered a downturn, estimating up to 300 tourism-reliant businesses would miss out on a grant.

Wineries or breweries with a cellar door or restaurant were also excluded just because they had a wine or beer producer industry code, rather than a restaurant code.

Mr Hall said any small businesses across WA that could show cancelled bookings or lost turnover as a result of the lockdown should be able to apply for compensation.

Black Brewing Co owner Rob Johnson said the lockdown and interim restrictions cost his Margaret River business about $50,000 a week. Despite two thirds of the income coming from the restaurant and events, because the company has a brewery industry code, rather than a restaurant code, it’s not eligible for the grant.

“That $3000 was almost like a slap in the face really to us — then it turns out we can’t even get that. We also got nothing on the last lockdown (in April), even though we lost $50,000 a week for two weeks,” he said.

Black Brewing Co, whose owner Rob Johnson is ineligible for a $3000 lockdown grant.
Black Brewing Co, whose owner Rob Johnson is ineligible for a $3000 lockdown grant. Credit: Unknown/Supplied, Unknown

CCIWA chief executive Chris Rodwell said any businesses under the $4 million threshold should be eligible for support and called on the Government to use some of its iron ore royalties to help employers.

Opposition tourism spokesman Vince Catania added: “These companies have done the right thing by shutting up shop during the lockdown to protect West Australians from COVID-19 but instead of being rewarded, they are being ignored by the Labor Government.”

A McGowan Government spokeswoman said the $41 million grant scheme was among the most generous in the country “when calculated on a per day basis”. She said it was designed to deliver cash flow assistance to small businesses operating in the most impacted sectors.

She said more than 7000 businesses received a $2000 grant after April’s lockdown and it was estimated more than 17,500 would be eligible for round two.

“The grant program is about striking the right balance and ensuring those businesses that were impacted directly can apply. It is important that the highest of standards are in place when dealing with public money,” she said.

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