Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:23): My question is for the Minister for Small Business.
The government has a COVID-19 Business Support Fund for those operations impacted by stage 3 and 4 restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell shire area. These are $10 000 grants that are available until 14 September.
I know many businesses in my area have welcomed this support during this difficult time, but I think you will all agree that businesses who have already received the support from this fund will in no way be back in swing in just 12 days.
Will the minister extend the scheme and allow businesses to reapply to this fund until the end of the year so as to ensure that they have the cash flow to reopen again when they are given the green light?
Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business) (12:24): I thank Ms Patten for her question. The minister with responsibility for the administration of the small business fund is Minister Pakula. But given the very clear interest from the small business portfolio, I will be able to answer that to a point—perhaps up to the point about specifically what are our intentions for next steps.
The Business Support Fund is now in its third iteration, so I guess that gives you some indication of the government’s willingness to respond as circumstances change, as different restrictions in different places at different points in time require additional support, and our willingness to respond to those.
This particular fund I think has to be seen in the context also of all of the other supports, of which there are many. I mentioned some yesterday in my response to Mr Davis, and there are a whole lot of others as well. They are frequently updated.
There are those for specific sectors, there are those for particular geographical areas, and I want to encourage all businesses to be regularly checking the Business Victoria website for the most contemporary information. It would not be our intention to extend tranche 3 of the small business fund beyond the advertised date.
We have, I think, a reasonable expectation of demand for that and funding has been made accordingly, and that is very much in response to a return to stage 3 in regional Victoria and the imposition of stage 4 in Melbourne.
But what I can certainly do is give my word, and I am confident on behalf of the Premier, the Treasurer and Minister Pakula as well, to our business community that we will continue to respond and react and make sure that people are supported on the way through.
I have heard from many people how important this fund has been for critical cash flow at those critical points, but we know that there is an awful lot more to be done and we will do it.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:26): Thank you. It is difficult because I realise that this fund actually is not under your portfolio, but could you, Minister, maybe give some assurance?
Is there any specific information that you could provide that small businesses could be looking out for to assist them really with restocking so they can reopen and really kind of have that cash flow as we start hopefully reopening and rebuilding?
Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business) (12:26): I thank Ms Patten for her further question. We will continue to support Victorian small businesses and indeed the larger ones as well as we reopen the economy.
There is a lot of consultation and engagement underway this week in preparation for the announcements on Sunday on both the Melbourne and the regional Victoria road maps to reopening. Look, certainly what I am hearing from our business community—as my colleagues are—is that
people want certainty and people certainly do not want us to be going back where we have just come from.
These restrictions are incredibly difficult for our business community. They have, however, worked in dramatically reducing the incidence of infection, and for that I think we can all be very thankful and very cognisant of the price that a lot of people are paying for that.
Again, I would encourage people to familiarise themselves with the supports that are available, but I would also indicate that we are acutely aware that there will be more to do.