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NSW Government COVID-19 business support webinar

In the webinar below, you'll hear from a range of government agencies on the financial support available to businesses affected by the current COVID-19 restrictions, including grants, JobSaver payments, payroll tax support and tenancy support.

 

- Hi, everyone. Welcome to the NSW Government COVID Small Business Information Session. My name is Karen Ballantyne from NSW Treasury. I'd like to begin today by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people joining us today.

Today you'll be hearing about some of the support that's available to help your business through this very challenging time. There will be three short presentations followed by a question and answer panel. This webinar is being recorded and will be shared on the Service NSW website in a few days. If you'd like to, please fell free to take screen shots through the presentation. On the right of your screen there's a text box that will be displayed through the presentation. If you've got a question for our presenters, please just type it here. With so many people registered for the webinar we may not be able to answer them all but we'll try and pick out the most common questions. At the end of this event we'd like your feedback through a quick online survey.

I'd like to introduce Bridget Barrett. Bridget is an Executive Director at Service NSW.

- Welcome everyone to the webinar that's around the business grants that are currently available at the moment. My name is Bridget Barrett and I look after service for business. I wanted to today just briefly talk about a couple of things with you. Firstly, this webinar is designed to help you identify which grant might be the best grant for you, but also to run through the documentation that you require to apply.

I really wanted to acknowledge though that I know a number of you would have experienced a delay in accessing us at Service, possibly by phone calls, and I know that this isn't helping with the pain that you're probably already experiencing with COVID. I'm really sorry that you've had that experience with us. We are getting a 40-fold increase in business calls, sometimes up to 20,000 calls a day, and I want to let you know that we have put on hundreds of staff to deal with those calls. So we're doing everything that we can to get back to you on those locked call requests and we are working really, really hard to shorten our wait times with you.

We have also worked with the big groups, accountant associations, and work with them so they can actually help members work through what's actually required for those grants, though I appreciate not all of you would probably have an account at that time but I know that some of you do. So we're working in other areas to actually help educate people on what the grants actually mean. We have had a little bit of feedback on the grants. That they need to be more streamlined on the online process, for those people that have already successfully applied for grants, and we have had over 100,000 successful grants already go through or applications for those grants, but we are listening to that feedback and we are constantly updating the products - or the online process for those applications and listening to that feedback to try and make that easier for you.

I really hope that this webinar gives you that extra information that you need to decide which grant to actually go for and what you actually need for that. Let me say that we will continue to keep striving to reduce our waiting times to come back to you and we are working through the evenings and the weekends to actually make those call backs to everyone. So thank you and I hope that you enjoy the webinar.

- Thank you, Bridget. I'd like to welcome Catharina Boer from Service NSW to speak about the financial assistance available through the COVID-19 business grant, the micro-business grant and JobSaver payment.

- Thanks, Karen, for that introduction. My name is Catharina Boer and I'm from Service NSW for Business. I'm here to provide you with an overview of the grants and payments available under the COVID-19 Business Support Package. The NSW Government has a range of supports to help businesses affected by the current COVID-19 restrictions. If you want to apply for financial support for your business, I'd encourage you to visit our website at service.nsw.gov.au. Information on supports, including eligibility guidelines and frequently asked questions, is available on our website.

We appreciate the challenges that businesses are facing and know that businesses are distressed. We're doing everything we can to support you at this time and are moving to process applications as quickly as we can. We're currently experiencing significant call volumes and our call centre and business concierge terms are taking longer than usual to respond to our customers. So it's a good idea to go to our website to find the information you need. If your employees need support because they can't work due to COVID restrictions, please refer them to Services Australia.

I'm now going to talk about the grants and payments available. There have been some recent updates, which means more eligible businesses can apply. I'll now go through these, but please check the Services NSW website as well. The 2021 COVID-19 business grant is a one-off grant to support businesses with an aggregated turnover between $75,000 and $50 million for the year ended 30th June 2020. There are three different grant amounts available, depending on the decline in turnover your business experienced over a minimum two-week period from the 26th of June 2021 to 17th of July 2021, compared to the same period in 2019 or 2020. Or the two-week period immediately before lockdown commenced, that is the 11th to the 25th of June 2021.

The grant amounts are $7,500 for a 30% decline, $10,500 for a 50% decline or $15,000 for a 70% decline. If your business does not meet all of the eligibility criteria you may be able to apply for the grant if you can provide evidence to support the alternative circumstances outlined in the guidelines on our website. The purpose of this grant is to provide cashflow support for the first three weeks of the current lockdown. Please note that nonemploying businesses, such as sole traders, aren't eligible to apply for this grant if individuals associated with and deriving income from the business received a Commonwealth COVID-19 disaster payment from the 26th of June and the 17th of July.

As I've just mentioned, the COVID-19 business grant is for the first three weeks of the current lockdown. The JobSaver payment is to help with costs incurred from week 4, that is the 18th of July 2021. JobSaver payments are to help businesses survive, maintain relationships with their employees and be in a position to trade when restrictions are lifted. Recent changes to JobSaver means that more businesses can now apply for support. JobSaver is for businesses with an annual turnover between $75,000 and $250 million. A large increase from the previous cap of $50 million and who have experienced a decline in turnover of 30% or more due to the public health order over a minimum two-week period that commenced on the 26th of June 2021, compared to the same period in 2019 or 2020, or the two-week period immediately before lockdown commenced. Remember, if you've successfully applied for the COVID business grant you will still need to apply for JobSaver.

JobSaver provides fortnightly payments to help maintain employee head count as at the 13th of July. The payments are based on 40% of a business's weekly payroll and range from $1,500 to $100,000 per week, a significant increase from the previous weekly cap of $10,000 per week. Nonemploying businesses can receive a $1,000 weekly payment. There are guidelines on our website to help you calculate your payroll amounts and, remember, your employees can still receive the Commonwealth COVID-19 disaster payment if you're receiving JobSaver.

The micro-business grant is a fortnightly grant of $1,500 for small businesses or sole traders with a turnover between $30,000 and $75,000 for the year ended 2020 and who experienced a decline in turnover of 30% or more over a two-week minimum period during the current lockdown, compared to the same period in 2019 or 2020 or the two-week period immediately before lockdown commenced. The grant can be used for business costs incurred from the 1st of June 2021 and for which no other government support is available.

There are a couple of important things to consider before applying. If you commenced trading after July 2020, you may be required to provide an alternative comparison period or alternative supporting evidence. This supporting evidence may be a letter from a qualified accountant or a business bank account statement. Nonemploying businesses are not eligible to apply for this grant if anyone associated with the business or who derives income from it has received the Commonwealth's COVID-19 disaster payment. However, for employing businesses your employees can still receive Commonwealth COVID-19 disaster payments if you receive this grant.

Before you apply for any of the COVID business support grants, please check your eligibility via the Service NSW website. Eligibility criteria and documentary evidence requirements are outlined on the application page for each grant, so make sure you have everything you need before you start your application. Guidelines and frequently asked questions for each grant are also available on our website. Once you're ready to apply make sure you have two forms of identification, such as an Australian driver's licence or your Medicare card, for example, your ABN details and any supporting evidence documentation ready to upload with your application. Having the right documentation will help us to process your application quickly and so it's important to check what you need to provide.

As a first step you'll need to set up your My Service NSW account if you don't have one already. Once you've logged into your My Service NSW account you'll be able to access your business profile. A business profile makes it faster and easier to transact with the NSW Government and you'll be able to follow the progress of your application. You'll need to provide evidence of your businesses and your turnover and loss of income. You may be required to provide this via a letter from a qualified accountant, registered tax agent or registered BAS agent using the template on the Service NSW website or a business bank account statement or a business activity statement or an Australian income tax return or notice of assessment.

For the micro-business grant you can also use the following, a profit and loss statement from an accounting software for a minimum three-month period during the 2019-20 financial year and one of the following documents: An annotated personal bank statement for the same minimum three-month period or a 2019-20 personal income tax return.

We've been working closely with accountant and tax practitioner peak bodies so they understand what the evidentiary requirements are and this means they can help you to receive your payments as quickly as possible. You'll also need your banking details for payment. For both the business grant and the micro-business grant you can't save and resume your application once you've started, so have everything ready before you begin. For the JobSaver payment you can save and resume your application, but if you haven't submitted it within seven days, any details you've entered will be deleted. And please note if your application is successful you may be audited in the future, so please keep all your documentation.

Thank you for your time. I'd now like to hand you back to Karen.

KAREN: Thanks for that, Catharina. Now, let me introduce Emily Spears Mears from NSW Treasury to outline some of the other support measures for businesses.

EMILY: Thank you so much, Karen, and before I start I'd just like to acknowledge that I'm on Gadigal land and acknowledge that we're all on - in different places at the moment because we can't meet together, which we could. I'd like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands we are on today. So I'm going to talk about the additional business support measures that the NSW Government has put in place.

Firstly, we have a rebate scheme for small businesses to support them with the cost of government fees and charges. That's available through Service NSW to businesses that are under the payroll tax threshold. Eligible businesses can claim up to $1,500 against the cost of eligible government fees and charges. That's a scheme that opened in April and is available until June next year FY 22. There's also payroll tax support, so a 25% reduction in this year's payroll tax for eligible businesses and deferrals for all businesses of payroll tax payments until October, as well as interest-free 12-month repayment plans. So there's more information available about that on Service NSW's website and there's also support for businesses in maintaining their tenancies.

We also recognise this is an incredibly challenging time to be also thinking about how to cover costs such as your rent. As a consequence there's now regulation that landlords cannot evict retail or commercial tenants without first going to mediation. You can contact the NSW Small Business Commission for mediation services. There's also land tax relief as an incentive for landlords to encourage them to provide rent reductions and that's up to 100 per cent of their land tax liability.

Moving on, as of course - Business Connect, as you all know, are providing an amazing boutique service to businesses, which is free of charge if you have COVID-related concerns and, of course, all their webinars, events and online resources, and we've also put in place targeted sector supports for particular sectors. So an accommodation support package for providers that lost holiday bookings during the winter school holidays, which obviously came at exactly the same time as the lockdown unfortunately. That's a program that will become available through Service NSW later this year.

Even later this year once restrictions ease we'll be encouraging people back into the CBD with Stay & Rediscover Accommodation vouchers, $100 for eligible NSW residents off the cost of accommodation in the CBD, and we've also extended the Dine & Discover Scheme. Obviously not so useful at the moment. Unfortunately for tourism businesses but we did hope that by extending the scheme people would continue to redeem - and making - make it possible to redeem your vouchers, dining vouchers, for take-away that people would continue to do that in a COVID safe way and the support for the performing arts sector, for eligible nonprofits, commercial theatres and commercial music venues, to help cover the cost of current productions which have obviously had to be shut down.

So there's also a guarantee scheme for small and medium enterprises. This is an Australian Government measure whereby the government will guarantee 50% of the value of eligible business loans to SMEs impacted by COVID. Financial institutions have also obviously recognised the support that's needed for businesses during this time and they are - have a range of options for making full, partial payments or accessing further hardship assistance for eligible business owners experiencing financial difficulty as a result of COVID. Details about that are available through your bank or Australian Banking Association. And, finally, there's Indigenous business support through Indigenous Business Australia, and you don't have to be an existing IBA customer to access that support.

Thank you so much. I'll now hand back to Karen.

KAREN: Thank you, Emily. Now, we've received quite a few questions. Please can you keep them coming into that text box located on the right-hand side of your screen. As we enter the second half of 2021 with large parts of Australia under COVID-19 lockdowns, many of us are experiencing some form of pandemic fatigue. With the unpredictable nature of COVID-19 it's easy to be worried about what will happen next, both in your business and your personal life, including your financial situation. This can include feelings of stress, anxiety, low energy, irritability, hopelessness or having difficulty sleeping.

There are some tools that are available to support you to maintain your well-being during these stressful times. I'd like to encourage you to visit Beyond Blue or call their Coronavirus Mental Well-being Support Service on 1800 512 348. That's 1800 512 348 if you're struggling. You can also visit or call Lifeline on 13 11 14. That's 13 11 14. The Beyond Blue New Access Program for Business Owners connects you with a trained coach who can offer you advice and support, and I really encourage you to ensure that you're looking after yourself and looking out for others in these challenging times.

And welcome to the live Q&A section of the webinar. I'd like to introduce you to our panel today. Michael Miller from the NSW Small Business Commission who can answer your retail and leasing questions. Carmel Meznaric and Antony de Cruise from Service NSW and Natalie Thompson from NSW Treasury. Now, we've already had hundreds of questions, so please keep them coming and what I'll try is to let the most common questions for our panel, so we can provide as many answers to you as possible. We've also got a team behind the scenes working on your questions. They may ask you to provide your email address or your ABN so they can follow up with responses to individual questions. And just to let you know this video is being recorded and we'll make a copy available on the Service NSW website as soon as we can.

Carmel, the first question - one we're seeing from quite a few people - is they've already applied for grants. When can they expect to see the funds?

CARMEL: Yeah, sure. Thanks so much, Karen, and thanks, everybody, for joining us this afternoon. So we have - first of all, I'd like to apologise for the delays that you might have experienced, just in relation to the grant applications being processed. We've actually taken some steps over the last couple of weeks to do a number of things. So we've onboard quite a number of additional staff into the processing team, so now we have over 300 staff that are processing applications. We've also increased our workforce right across Service NSW through our contact centre and our business support teams.

So you can actually track the progress of your application via the business profile, but you can actually now track the progress of the entire processing of the grants via the Service NSW website. So we have actually processed over 111,000 applications this week and today we have approved just over 12,000 applications. So we're really seeing a big - substantial increase in the processing - of those applications being processed. So you should receive an outcome to your application very, very soon. Once it's approved you should receive the funds in your bank account within five to seven business days.

KAREN: Thanks so much, Carmel. Antony, a question about the new eligibility requirements from Ginger. The business has already applied for a grant with a 30% decline compared to 2019, as per the original guidelines, but they can show a 70% decline using the new comparison periods. How can - what steps should they take? Can they pursue the higher tier grant?

ANTONY: Thanks, Karen, and good afternoon, everyone. Yes. So those applicants for grants who have already submitted an application should have probably received an email asking if you wanted to withdraw that application. If you haven't seen that, please have a look in your Junk folder, a lot of them have told us that it is going to the Junk folder. If you haven't got it and you still wanted to withdraw your application, what you would need is a letter from you, basically stating the reason why you want to withdraw the application and once we get that letter we can actually update your current application in the system and withdraw that application so that you can reapply with the latest figures or if it is a different grant that you're looking for, you can apply for that. Just please make sure that you do send us an email and if you don't have a template or a copy of that, please reach out and we can share that with you and specify the reasons why you would like to withdraw that application. Thank you, Karen.

KAREN: Thanks, Antony. There are also a number of questions about if accountants can apply on behalf of a business. Yes, they can with a letter of authority. Antony, could you advise the correct procedure?

ANTONY: Thanks, Karen, and a very good question. We have now opened out to the application process through the system, so it doesn't really - only look at your business profile. So there are a few things that accountants should be aware of and it's very helpful if you can do that immediately before you apply. First, see if you can get your name added to the business profile of your customer. Sometimes it may not be possible. So what we will need is a letter from your customer or your client authorising you to apply on behalf of your client.

Now, the most important thing is that in the letter you need to also make sure that your customer will provide their mobile number and the reason for that is we may need to contact your customer to see if you are actually authorised or been authorised to apply or withdraw or whatever it may be, so we need to have that. And the other tip is also put every application in individually. Don't try and bulk upload because that will get lost in the system. So put in an application for each of your clients and - just a little bit of caution as well. Since you are applying on behalf of your clients, the process is that it doesn't bulk process them for you and we are at this stage unable to contact you if you need to on behalf of all your clients.

We will have to reach out to you individually for each of those clients, just because these applications wouldn't be approved or accessed by different people, so it's not possible for us to send one email to all the applications that you may lodge. So provide us with a letter of authority, with all the information including the client's mobile numbers and - mobile number and we can then reach out if we need to require any further clarifications or authority or things like that. Thanks, Karen.

KAREN: Thank you. Natalie, we've got a question here from Lisa, "With the number of areas of regional NSW now in lockdown, will the dates to test eligibility be extended or revised for those areas?"

NATALIE: Yeah, thanks, Karen. That's a really great question. For Lisa I would say at the moment for the JobSaver and micro-business grant, the eligibility to determine the decline in lockdown commences - has already commenced and will continue while the lockdown is ongoing. So if you're not yet able to demonstrate the 30% decline in turnover, you will still have a number of weeks at this stage - until the 28th of August at this stage, which is when the lockdown is currently scheduled to end, and then once you're able to demonstrate that decline in turnover and apply for those - either of those grants, you will then be able to have your payments backdated to when those schemes started. So for a micro-business grant that's the 26th of June and for JobSaver that goes back to the 18th of July.

KAREN: Thanks, Natalie. Now, we're also seeing a number of questions about the disaster assistance payment. Please note because that's a Commonwealth Government measure, please contact Services Australia with your questions. We're not able to answer those - those here today. Antony, a question from Tom. He's previously received the COVID-19 disaster payment. Wants to understand if he's correct in thinking he can't apply for the micro-business or business grants, and also to know if he decided to pay back the COVID-19 disaster payments, would he then be eligible to - to apply for those grants?

ANTONY: Thanks, Karen. The short answer is no, you can't apply for it once you've got the - if you have already applied for the disaster payment, you can't get both. Now, the question is whether you can repay it is something that we cannot answer because that is a Federal Government disaster payment. The other option is you reach out to Services Australia and see if they can stop the payment or claim back the payment and that's a bit of a technical question. I'm not sure, Natalie, if you can also jump in and help out with that question because the short answer is no at this stage. Thanks, Natalie.

NATALIE: Yeah, thanks, Antony. Just as a clarification, you can't receive both payments for the same period of time. So, for instance, if you were receiving the disaster payment for that first week of the lockdown but you've applied for JobSaver which commences in July, that's fine. What we're looking at is making sure that businesses aren't receiving both payments for the same period of time. So like Antony said, whether you're able to pay back the Commonwealth disaster payment and then apply for one of the NSW programs, that would depend on you having a discussion with Services Australia but provided that has occurred there wouldn't be any issues with you applying for JobSaver, for instance.

KAREN: Thanks, Natalie. A question here from Paul. So Paul is a new building company and wants to - wants to understand, so obviously with the COVID restrictions a number of his job sites are locked - locked down and he has seven employees and a range of costs. What support might be available for his business? Perhaps Antony, that's a question for you.

ANTONY: Yeah. So, again, the qualifying requirements, I suppose, is your turnover and if you can show a decline - first of all, I mean, if your business has been registered. You've got an ABN and it's registered in NSW and operating in NSW. That's one of the boxes you can tick. The other is to show a decline and are you able to provide comparison periods. If you can to certain things or a couple of things you can do, have a chat with your accountant and see if they do have some guidelines of how they can look at your books and provide a better comparison, depending on what is the grant that will be the best suited for your business. If you are unable to get an answer, please reach out to us directly. We can try and help, depending on your business, ask you a few questions and come up with a suggestion, which you may then want to consider as a best option for your business. Thanks, Karen.

KAREN: Thanks.

NATALIE: I might add to that, Karen. Just briefly, if you have an annual turnover of greater than $75,000 you should probably consider whether the business grant or JobSaver is something you may be eligible for. If you have aggregated annual turnover of lower - between 30,000 and 75,000, which you probably don't by the sounds of things if you've got some employees, then we would probably suggest you look at the micro-business grant, but the business grant is available for the first three weeks of the lockdown. So if you were unable to demonstrate a decline in turnover, for instance, because you're in construction and you were still doing work during those first three weeks you may not be eligible for that, but subsequently given construction was shut down you may be eligible to apply for JobSaver.

KAREN: Thanks, Natalie. Another question perhaps for you, Natalie, from Eva, "When an employer receives JobSaver, do they need to pass that on to their staff? Do they need to pay their staff any of this payment?"

NATALIE: Yeah. Look, that's a really greater question. Ideally if you can we would love for you to continue paying your staff, but we do understand that the payment is 40% of your pre-COVID wages, so it may not obviously cover all of your staff salary and wages costs and you are able to use your JobSaver payments on other business costs if you need to. So we do understand that you may need to stand your staff down, so they may not be receiving any payment and we're certainly not going to be holding that against you. So, yeah, to give you a short answer, no, you do not have to pass on the payments to your staff if you are unable to and what I would suggest is that if your staff have lost hours, that something they may look into is whether they are able to receive the Commonwealth disaster payment.

KAREN: Thank you. Carmel, an anonymous question here, a business has applied for both the business grant and JobSaver almost four weeks ago. No-one's touched their application. They haven't heard from anybody and they've tried to call Service a number of times and they're obviously in a difficult financial position. Is there any guidance you can provide to that business and others in a similar circumstance?

CARMEL: Yes, certainly. Look, I think it would be really helpful, given that they applied four weeks ago, I think it would be a good idea if we could potentially capture their email address RDN and we actually reach out to them tomorrow to follow up for them, given that we have improved the processing times and the payments are, sort of, going out a lot faster now. The only thing I can think of is we have experienced some applications that may not have the required evidence or attachments allocated to their application, so that has delayed some of the processing times. So it could be, you know, that type of scenario, but if they could provide an email address I could organise for one of our business concierge team members to reach out to them tomorrow so that we can follow up for them.

KAREN: Yeah. Thank you, Carmel, and if there's anybody in the same situation, please if you could add your contact details to the chat or to the survey that we'll launch in about 15 - 15 minutes. There's a question here, Natalie. A book-keeper would like to make an application but requires a letter from an accountant. Is that one you can speak to?

NATALIE: To be honest, I can. I'm not sure I entirely understand the - the question, my apologies, but if we're talking about a sole trader who would normally be able to sign their own accountant's letter then, yes, they would be required to reach out to a different accountant for that letter to demonstrate their decline in turnover.

KAREN: Thank you. And, Natalie, a question here from Kristen. She's the director of a proprietary limited company and is the only active worker in the business. Both herself and her husband are directors. Whilst waiting for the - whilst applying for the JobSaver grant, does she select that her business is an employing business or a nonemploying business?

NATALIE: Yeah.

KAREN: That's all right.

NATALIE: Thanks. That's a great question. Yeah. So I was just going to say I think it probably depends on whether, Kristen, you are classified as an employee or whether you are just - even though you're the primary worker, whether you are just making drawings as a director from that entity. I think if you're reporting PAYG withholding you may be able to classify yourself as an employing business but I might double check with Antony, to see whether he's got any further information on the application process.

ANTONY: Sorry, Karen, can you just repeat the question for me? Sorry, Karen.

KAREN: I'm sorry. I've ticked it.

NATALIE: That's okay. So I -

KAREN: So I think it's a husband and wife business where they're both directors, so looking for some guidance about whether they're an employing business or a nonemploying business.

ANTONY: I think it depends on - thanks, Karen. It depends on how do they source their income. I mean, directors can be director's fees. I mean, if it's director's fees they're not on the payroll, as such. They may not be able to but if they are on the payroll and they are drawing a salary then they can.

KAREN: Thanks, Antony. And a question - a question perhaps here for you, Antony, from Jonathan. How does he amend his grant application now that the turnover comparison enables a comparison with 2020. So previously when he applied he only qualified for tier 1 but now he qualifies for a higher tier. What's the process?

ANTONY: Thanks, Karen. As I mentioned before, the requirement or the need - what we will need from the customer is a letter requesting withdrawal. Again, a couple of things you've got to bear in mind. If you have already received the funds it's a little bit more - a longer process in withdrawing them but if you have not and it's still in the process of being approved, please send us a letter with the reason and explain now that the turnover is different, you are entitled - or you think you are entitled to the tier 2. Please send us a letter requesting the withdrawal of that application and then we will take it - take it to the process.

Now, please bear in mind once we get this letter and we do it withdrawal there is going to be some delay, so it's not going to happen straight away because we need to verify things and we need to cross-check things before the first application can be withdrawn, so that you can then apply for the new one. So there will be a little bit of time delay and gap between these two things that will happen and given the numbers - and the number of requests that are coming through, especially for withdrawals due to these changes, there will be some delay. So I would request that, yes, please put through the request but also be patient as well.

KAREN: Thanks, Antony, and another question for you from Marife. She was hoping to be able to apply for the micro-business grant but falls short of the minimum turnover of $30,000. Are there any other exceptions or other support that she may be able to apply for?

ANTONY: Thanks, Karen. Good question and something that's come up quite often. Unfortunately at this stage anyway there isn't, unless they are - you know, can prove the circumstances are different but from a grants perspective, and I think Natalie can maybe correct me if I'm wrong, I don't think there's anything at this stage anyway that is available for businesses who fall below that.

NATALIE: Yeah. Thanks, Antony. To - just to add on to that, with the micro-business grant there are some exceptions, particularly for new businesses who aren't able to demonstrate that 30,000 aggregated annual turnover. We would then pro rata your turnover for your part year and assume that it is for the full year to see whether you achieve the minimum turnover requirements. However, if you are unable to demonstrate that then you would be ineligible for the micro-business grant.

There are a couple of other things that you could probably look at, which would be the $1,500 rebate, which is on the Service NSW website and that's available to nonpayroll paying businesses and will allow you to receive a rebate for government fees and charges - I think it's government fees and charges, State Government and Local Government fees and charges. And there is also, if you have time to have a look, there's a Safe Work NSW $500 rebate if you're buying safety equipment, and that would be on the Safe Work website if you need to have a look at some further details there

KAREN: Thanks, Natalie, and also the independent business advisory program Business Connect is some support that small businesses are eligible for. We've also had a number of questions from business owners from nonEnglish speaking backgrounds and that business advisory support includes multicultural advisers and translating services as well. I've got a question for Michael. Somebody is about to open a small business and is under negotiation with the landlord and real estate for rent management. If their business is locked down in the coming weeks, what support is available for them?

MICHAEL: Thanks, Karen. So obviously there's a lot of supports already been talked about but if it's a brand new business then there may be different - different eligibility but what I'd like to talk about as Director of Mediation Services is - well, I'd like to reflect firstly that - good on you for thinking ahead. There's a lot of uncertainty at the moment for both lessees, tenants, and for the property owners, the lessors. So there might be some - some good opportunities though to start businesses and we have seen - we have seen a bit of a downturn indicators that we watch for new lease deals being done but they haven't dried up, they're still pretty strong. There's still lots of transactions happening out there in the market, from what we can see.

The terms of those though are really where, you know, you're going to have to pay a lot of attention. So mediation services operates as a - an intermediary, if the parties are willing to participate in that, and that is for disputes that might arise. Usually those are going to be during the term of the lease or at the end of the term of the lease and under the Retail Leases Act that's always on. So disputes between lessors and lessees of retail shops, they always come, regardless of whether it's COVID or anything else going on, the Retail Leases Act prevails there. Of course, we have at the moment that the lessors, if they would otherwise be seeking to lock the tenant out or take any action to repossess a property then there is a mandatory mediation requirement in that situation as well, which makes a lot of sense, I think for both the lessors and lessees to be referring that in for mediation.

But the other application, and I flagged this on my LinkedIn profile yesterday, so if anybody was watching that or happen to come across that, I flagged that some people aren't really thinking in terms of a dispute which may, you know, soon go to court or soon result in some sort of action to end a lease but what their thinking is, really this is just a problem that needs to be resolved, and I've seen some other questions in the chat there on - on the Slido, I'm watching on my phone, that touch on this one as well.

If - there's really a problem, a problem in communication, whether you're a lessee or a lessor and you're finding it either difficult to make contact in the first instance to discuss this with the other party or whether you just find that contact - it doesn't resolve it or it's just too awkward and you don't really know where to begin then mediation services can help with that as well. So I'd certainly encourage everybody, whether it's a traditional sort of dispute where there's an argument about something, or even whether it's just a problem that you really need some support in overcoming and that support can come in the form of a neutral third party, a mediator that we can assist you with, then please get in touch. So we're at smallbusiness.nsw.gov.au. You'll find application forms there. You can ask questions of us if you did want to call or email in questions, but certainly consider an application for mediation to really be the first support that you might turn to, if you're finding you're just not able to make progress, that's whether you're a lessor or a lessee.

For that new business starting up, great time to start thinking about what potential uncertainty is there ahead and what can we do to mitigate that. There are a lot of different strategies you can take. If you are - and we would always suggest you see a legal adviser to help you put together a significant transaction in your business like a lease, then some of the experienced practitioners out there will be able to give you a lot of suggestions about different ways you could structure that contract so that you hopefully don't have too many problems down the track, if there is some level of uncertainty. Potentially there are some really great opportunities for lessees getting into the market in different areas at the moment, but having said that it really depends on the area and the industry that you're in because there are still certain - certain parts of the economy that are doing quite well.

KAREN: Thanks, Michael. Natalie, we've got a couple of regional questions. So one from somebody who wants to know if the smaller micro-business grants are available to businesses in the border bubble and the NSW side of the border of the Victorian border. And another question from Craig asking, "If you're not eligible - if you're not located in greater Sydney, can you access the JobSaver grant?"

NATALIE: Thanks, Karen. Yeah, definitely. All of the grants, the micro-business grant, the business grant and the JobSaver scheme have all been set up to allow businesses, both within the greater Sydney lockdown region, as well as regional NSW businesses to apply. We recognise that when these programs were being established that the public health order that was put in place is affecting businesses, not just within those specific LGAs, but right across NSW. So if you're able to demonstrate the required decline in turnover and satisfy the other eligibility requirements you're definitely encouraged to apply for those programs. Yeah. I would say for - the only difference between the schemes would be for JobSaver and the business grant, the business needs to be operating in NSW, and for the micro-business grant, the business needs to be primarily operating in NSW.

KAREN: Thanks, Natalie. And another question here from Tony, "What happens with the head count if an employee leaves a business due to receiving another job?"

NATALIE: Yeah, thanks. If an employee is voluntarily leaving the organisation, that's not a problem and it won't be - it won't affect your payments under the JobSaver scheme.

KAREN: Thanks. And a question perhaps for - for you, Carmel. Sharon's company applied for JobSaver on the 28th of July and the status is showing "In progress". When can she expect a response?

CARMEL: Yeah, sure. Thank you for that question. So, look, I would expect that you would receive a response over the next week, if not sooner, if not over the next couple of days. So just to clarify, so the application was submitted on the 28th of July, Karen, would that be correct?

KAREN: Yes.

CARMEL: Yep. Okay. Okay. Yeah. So, again, I apologise for the delay but I would say that you should receive an update to your application definitely over the next week, if not sooner, and then once approved the funds should be coming across to your account within five to seven business days as well.

KAREN: Yeah. Thank you. And a question here from Caroline, "What's being done to assist commercial tenants who are closed to the public?".

MICHAEL: That would be for me.

KAREN: Apologies, Michael. I've just lost my Slido - Slido screen. Let me see.

MICHAEL: I know that question. I was watching it on my Slido.

KAREN: Okay. Yeah.

MICHAEL: Yes. The poll's come up.

KAREN: So what's being done to assist commercial tenants who are mandatorily closed due to public health orders to negotiate their rents with a reluctant landlord?

MICHAEL: Yep. And the pressure is on because the poll has just come up on Slido too, so I better give some good information. We do know that there is - the regulations that cover resell and commercial leasing, essentially they say that mediation is required before any action can be taken in certain circumstances and that is - that includes just being closed. So you might be closed because essentially you're forced to close. You could be closed because it's impractical to be open, it costs you more to open the doors, but there's a requirement for mediation in any case before the lessor in those cases can take any action.

It's something that you are probably going to have to negotiate at some point in time with the landlord about how - how to move forward or it might be something that the landlord, the lessor themselves, are quite keen to try to negotiate as well because a lot of - we're getting contacted just as much by lessors as we are by lessees because this is a crisis that's impacting all involved in these sorts of transactions and we know that the lease transaction, it does form a significant part of the business operating expenditure. Probably wages might pip the leasing cost but they're often in second place there.

So the mediation service essentially is the port of call. If you don't even know how to begin that conversation then I'd be encouraging you to come to our website. You can check out the details on the website. You can - you can give us a call. You can also send in an email and you can just send in an application for mediation. As I said earlier, it's not going to - I didn't mention it earlier. Actually it's not going to cost you anything to send in an application for mediation, I think I said that on the last couple of webinars but that's probably another important point.

And the other aspect is if there are any fees associated during the process, most of the matters that we resolve are resolved without any - any fee requirements at all and certainly nothing for the application itself, just to make contact with us. Any costs that you do have would be - you can - if you're eligible you can take that back to Service NSW because the coverage of the fees - the government fees and charges and mediation fees are on that list as well. So really looking forward to being able to assist wherever we can with lessees or lessors who might be in those situations.

KAREN: Yeah. Thanks. Thanks, Michael. And as Michael mentioned, there's a quick survey. There are three questions that we would love you to fill out and as Carmel mentioned, if you're one of those businesses who its - you applied three or four weeks ago and you haven't had any updates, please include your email address in the post code field and we'll follow you up as quickly as we can.

A question for you, Natalie. Patricia wants to know if you can use either cash or accrual-based accounting to determine eligibility for the grants?

NATALIE: Yeah. Thanks, Patricia. This is a question which we've received quite a lot. We are asking businesses to use the method that they are using for reporting their business activity statement. So if you are using an accruals method on your business activity state, we would ask you to continue to use that when you apply for a business grant or JobSaver and if you're using the cash method we would ask you to use that.

So for businesses I understand there's many of you out there who are using the cash method and this may mean that you are still receiving cash during the lockdown, meaning that you're not yet able to show a decline in turnover of 30%. We would say that for JobSaver and the micro-business grant, being able to demonstrate your decline in turnover will continue, as I said earlier, until the 28th of August at this stage. So you can choose a later two-week period to compare your turnover against and for the JobSaver scheme and micro-business grant those payments will be backdated once you've been approved for the payment.

KAREN: Thank you, Natalie. And a question for you, Antony, from a builder. Obviously during the lockdown no construction was going on but this business had received some - some payment for work done prior to the lockdown. How can they show the - the decline because when they look at the bank statement there was income during that lockdown?

ANTONY: Thanks, Karen. And as Natalie mentioned if you're using the, you know, accrual method or the cash method, you know, that's exactly what you need to provide to be able to show the decline, you know. You may have got money from previous jobs, depending on your business activity statement. The other thing you also may want to have a talk to your accountant and see how can they justify the payments that came in were from a previous period to - to be attached to your application. Thanks, Karen.

KAREN: Thanks.

NATALIE: I might add to that, Karen.

KAREN: And another question for you from Jenny, can a business -

ANTONY: I believe Natalie's got something.

KAREN: Sorry.

NATALIE: Sorry. That's okay. I was just going to say that the grants and the JobSaver scheme are designed to provide cashflow support. So that's one of the reasons why the rules have been structured the way they are, is to provide cashflow for when businesses need it and applications will be open till the 18th of October, so there should be time for businesses to demonstrate their decline in turnover, even when they're on the cash reporting method for their business activity statements.

KAREN: Thanks for that clarification. A question from Jenny, "Can a business apply for JobSaver before they apply for the business grant?" What guidance would you give them, Antony?

ANTONY: So they applied for the business grant or they - they can apply for both if they qualify and if they have - they can prove that they have a decline, they're still under decline, they can apply for the business grant and the JobSaver. It doesn't stop them from applying for either of them, provided they can show that there has been a decline from the 17th of July for the business grant and subsequently after that they're still going through the decline. They can apply for both.

KAREN: And does it matter which one they do first?

ANTONY: Obviously they're going to go for the business grant because that's the previous period, apply for that. They'll have all the documents for that and then go to the next one. Again, please, just bear in mind once you apply for the business grant and till that is approved and paid the other application will not go through. So just bear in mind that once the application is processed, it needs to get approved because if not the system will then recognise that email address or the log in as an application already made so they will - it will be, kind of, a stop for the moment.

So my recommendation is if you are applying for the business grant and if you think that's the better option for you, please apply for that and make sure all the documents are attached. So once that is approved and paid then it's a two-week period close to that, you can then apply for the JobSaver. So that way there won't be a stop and you won't be, kind of, wondering what's going on. Why you're not being allowed to apply for the JobSaver. So you may have to give some time inbetween these two applications.

KAREN: Yeah. Thank you. And I'm sorry that was our final - final question for this - this afternoon. I'd like to thank all of our - our panellists for taking the time to speak with us today and to you at home or at work for joining us. I hope you found this - found this webinar helpful. I'm - apologies. We've had hundreds and hundreds of questions, so unfortunately we weren't able to get to all of them, but what we'll do is take those away and update the frequently asked questions section on the NSW website.

As I've said, there's a survey there so please do take a few seconds to provide some - some feedback about this event. We'll share a recording of the webinar on the Service NSW website and email you through a link to the email that you registered for this event with and I really encourage you to access the - the support that's available, including independent business advice through Business Connect and mediation support from the NSW Small Business Commission. Thank you.

The webinar is based on information current at the time of recording on 11 August 2021.

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