Shops go online and bolognese goes into the freezer as businesses call for help

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Small businesses have called for urgent help from the state and federal governments as Victoria heads into a seven-day lockdown with no new support provisions in place.

The hospitality, events and retail sectors were frantically responding to the new rules on Thursday and preparing for their first lockdown without JobKeeper payments for any business.

Shannon Martinez, of Smith & Daughters, is pictured at Sidney Myer Music Bowl with stock that will no longer be eaten by Rising festival-goers over the next seven days.Credit:Eddie Jim

Acting Premier James Merlino acknowledged the next week would be tough, especially without the lifeline of JobKeeper payments, and said further announcements could be on the way.

“[We] will make an assessment of what support we can provide businesses in terms of the impact,” he said on Thursday.

The next seven days will be the first time that all small businesses have endured a lockdown without the safety net of the federal government’s $90 billion JobKeeper wage program.

Before JobKeeper was cut on March 31, the eligibility criteria had already tightened twice, meaning many businesses were thrown off the scheme before Victoria endured a five-day lockdown in February.

Chris Redfern, from Avenue Bookshops, was preparing to revert to click and collect.Credit:Simon Schluter

“To move to click and collect is sort of twice as much labour for half as much takings. It’s really about survival,” owner Chris Redfern said.

Mr Redfern respected the need for a lockdown but said the next seven days, when he expects business to dry up 50 to 75 per cent, would hurt.

He hoped eligible Victorians would now see the urgency to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Melbourne lord mayor Sally Capp said the state government should support businesses commensurate with the losses they suffer during the snap lockdown, in what the Australian Retailers Association said could amount to billions of dollars in lost trade.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra called for direct cash compensation to businesses and workers, adding the government might also need to underwrite debts incurred by companies.

“There’s no JobKeeper, there’s no rent relief, there’s no other support programs in place.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil backed calls urging the federal government to immediately reinstate JobKeeper, while the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union called for emergency relief payments and a permanent rise in JobSeeker.

The federal government paused mutual obligations for all jobseekers in Victoria from Thursday, meaning they will not be penalised if they can’t make appointments.

With Paul Sakkal

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