27 June 2021

The region’s peak business advocacy organisation, Business Illawarra, has today called on the NSW Government to roll out hardship grants for Illawarra businesses impacted by the 14-day Stay at Home Order that commenced in the Wollongong and Shellharbour local government areas from 6pm yesterday (Saturday).

The proposed grants would follow the model deployed on Sydney’s Northern Beaches where, following an investigation by the NSW Small Business Commissioner, one-off hardship payments of $3,000 or $5,000 were made available to small businesses hit by the December 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns and were provided, variously, to businesses that had suffered at least a 30 percent or a 50 percent decline in turnover.

Business Illawarra Executive Director, Adam Zarth, said that this weekend’s effective lockdown was already hurting small businesses across the Illawarra, and that the pain was set to deepen over the coming fortnight of the mandated health restrictions.

“In what was meant to be a busy two weeks of trade over the school holidays, we’ve instead seen local businesses reduced to skeleton staffs, operating online or closing entirely - except for those supplying essential services such as supermarkets,” said Mr Zarth.

“Based on the Small Business Commissioner’s previous advice to the NSW Government following the three-week Northern Beaches Christmas lockdown, we need to see similar support for affected Illawarra businesses in the wake of this outbreak and the resulting lockdown.”

“The same recommendations from the previous lockdown should be adopted to allow an urgent rollout of support for local businesses, as the consultation and thinking has already been done. Timing is off the essence, as this time we lack the safety net of both JobKeeper and the workforce flexibility measures that were both still available during the Northern Beaches lockdown.”

“Government needs to move quickly to provide cashflow, stop confidence plummeting and the flow-on affects that will ultimately see people cease spending. There will be a temptation to wait and assess the damage first before tailoring a package, but delay comes with economic risk.”