OPINION

COVID-19 support packages to protect local businesses and jobs | Opinion

Help is at hand to get through the COVID-19 lockdowns

I know that the current COVID-19 outbreak in the Greater Sydney area is having a significant impact on our Upper Hunter electorate because of the restrictions placed on our small businesses and a reduction in visitors over the recent school holidays.

The Australian and NSW Governments announced a COVID-19 support package, which I know will give peace of mind to many in our community.

The package will protect local businesses, save jobs and ensure the support is there for those who need it.

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Under the 2021 COVID-19 package, the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will be further expanded and increased to $600 if a person has lost 20 or more hours of work a week or $375 if a person has lost between 8 and less than 20 hours of work a week.

The package will also see these payments be made available to those outside of Commonwealth Disaster declared hotspots that meet the criteria for payment.

Other measures of the combined Commonwealth and NSW Government 2021 COVID-19 package include:

  • Up to $2 billion committed to the scheme to provide cash flow support to businesses to help them retain staff;
  • A new grants program for micro businesses which experience a decline in turnover of 30 per cent;
  • A capped grant of up to $1,500 for residential landlords who are not liable to pay land tax who reduce rent for tenants;
  • Land tax relief equal to the value of rent reductions provided by commercial, retail and residential landlords to financially distressed tenants;
  • Introduction of legislative amendments to ensure a short-term eviction moratorium for rental arrears where a residential tenant suffers loss of income of 25 per cent due to COVID-19;
  • No recovery of security bonds, or lockouts or evictions of impacted retail and commercial tenants prior to mediation;
  • Deferral of gaming tax assessments for clubs until 21 December 2021 and hotels until 21 January 2021;
  • A $75 million support package for the performing arts sector to be administered by Create NSW;
  • A support package for the accommodation sector worth $26 million;
  • $12 million in additional funding for temporary accommodation for those at risk of or experiencing homelessness,
  • and $5.1 million in NSW funding to support mental health.

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Small and medium sized businesses will be able to register their interest for support payments from 14 July through Service NSW by visiting service.nsw.gov.au or calling 13 77 88.

To apply for the COVID Disaster Payment contact Services Australia by visiting servicesaustralia.gov.au or calling 180 22 66.

Remote witness rooms

Domestic violence complainants and other vulnerable witnesses will be empowered to give their best evidence in court thanks to upgrades at Singleton and Muswellbrook courthouses.

The projects were being delivered as part of a $9 million Commonwealth COVID-19 stimulus funding package.

The upgrades include:

  • Singleton Courthouse - a new remote witness room, state-of-the-art audio-visual link equipment, new furniture and secure access; and
  • Muswellbrook Courthouse - an upgraded remote witness room, state-of-the-art audio-visual link equipment, new furniture and secure access.

It is heartening to see our Upper Hunter electorate benefit from this investment, which will help vulnerable people feel safer when coming to court.

These facilities will give witnesses new, private and secure areas to prepare for court, to therefore be empowered to give their best evidence.

These investments are part of our ongoing commitment to support victim-survivors if they choose to report to police, and to help them feel confident in coming to court.

Later this year, self-represented defendants will be banned from personally cross examining complainants in domestic violence criminal proceedings and related apprehended domestic violence order proceedings, under new laws passed last November.

As part of the same reforms, complainants in these proceedings also now have a prima facie entitlement to give evidence remotely via audio visual link and in a closed court.

The works will also include upgrades to essential safety features, funded from the NSW Government's $100 million Sustaining Critical Infrastructure Program, announced in the November 2020 budget.

The contracts for Singleton and Muswellbrook courthouses have been awarded to Project Coordination (Australia) Pty Ltd.

Start dates are currently being finalised and the stimulus projects will be completed by the end of the year.

Dave Layzell is the Member for Upper Hunter

This story Help is at hand to get through the COVID-19 lockdowns first appeared on Hunter Valley News.