Loans and tax deferrals are available for businesses suffering from the impact of coronavirus.
Loans and tax deferrals are available for businesses suffering from the impact of coronavirus.

Loans and tax deferrals to help keep businesses afloat

THE State Government yesterday announced new measures to help businesses stay on their feet and hold on to staff as coronavirus continues to take its toll on the region’s economy.

However, representatives from the Whitsundays have mixed feelings about whether the measures will be enough to soften the blow on the region’s crucial industries.

Yesterday’s announcement unveiled a new $500 million loan facility in a bid to help businesses stay afloat.

The loans comprise of up to $250,000 with a 12-month interest free period that would enable businesses to hold on to their staff in the midst of the pandemic.

The government also announced it would extend the coronavirus payroll tax deferral to all businesses across the state.

This means that businesses can use money that would have otherwise gone into payroll tax to retain staff and continue to operate.

Owner of Fish D’Vine Kevin Collins said while the payroll tax initiative would have a positive impact, he was cautious about taking out a loan due the unknown nature and length of coronavirus.

“The payroll tax initiative is welcome, and the 12-month interest free loan may be valuable to some businesses, but I wouldn’t touch it with 40-foot pole,” he said.

“What happens after 12 months? It’s a case of how long is a piece of string with this impact.

“(The loan) is a great risk, if it was interest free for three years that would be different, but no one knows.”

Mr Collins said the payroll tax initiative would free up enough income to pay two full-time workers at Fish D’Vine for one year.

However, he was unsure whether other small businesses in the region would see the same benefits.

Instead, Mr Collins said the waiving of taxes for all small businesses on both a state and federal level would be necessary to keep them alive.

“The government needs to get ahead of the kerb on this,” he said.

“(We need) a freeze on taxes for the next two months without penalties so that in 12 months’ time we can start looking at paying those taxes back.

“The government needs to use every trick in the book to keep small business operating.

“The Whitsundays is a town full of small business … if they disappear people will realise how much they need them.”

Meanwhile, Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan is calling for a targeted aid package for the region like the $4.8 million for international tourism promotion and other resilience measures for Tropical Far North Queensland and the Gold Coast region that was announced in February.

Mr Costigan said the region had been “snubbed” and was pushing for support after tabling a question regarding the assistance for tourism operators at state parliament today.

“I would have thought we’d have something that was commiserate with the black hole in our economy as a result of COVID-19 in a place that is the heart of the reef and called that for a good reason,” he said.

“Where’s the special assistance that was forthcoming a couple of weeks ago for Cairns and the Gold Coast?

“I don’t begrudge the Gold Coast and Cairns getting extra love and attention, but you can’t possibly get away with not giving the Whitsundays anything over and above the standard fare, which has been brandied around that they’re hoping will keep people happy.”

CEO of Tourism Whitsundays Tash Wheeler welcomed the support and said any help at the moment was a positive step.

“We welcomed the news yesterday morning that the Queensland government has announced $500m in loans to support workers in businesses affected by COVID-19,” she said.

“We are in challenging times, right now any pressure that we can take from businesses and the community is a positive step, we need to keep businesses open and people employed, that needs to be the focus right now.”

Information on the concessional loans will be available at www.qrida.qld.gov.au from the end of this week.

Information on payroll tax deferral can be found here.