COVID-19 update – 31 March 2020

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Information on the federal and state governments’ economic response packages

As the peak body for social services in Queensland, QCOSS is committed to ensuring the wellbeing of every person, in every community in Queensland. Many of you are focussed on how we continue to provide essential services to support people and communities during this crisis.

In this update we’ve tried to explain the federal and state government stimulus and assistance packages that will help us continue to do our work. We understand that more is needed, that’s why we’ve written to the federal government with the rest of the COSS network asking for a Community Services Sector Rescue Package.

$1.1 billion package

Coinciding with further restrictions on movement, on the weekend the Australian Government announced a $1.1 billion package to boost mental health services, domestic violence support, Medicare assistance for people at home and emergency food relief. The announcement acknowledges the increased demand on the sector and is a very important measure to support people to be safe and well in their own homes.

As part of this package an additional $200 million Community Support Package will be provided to support charities and other community organisations that provide emergency and food relief as demand surges as a result of coronavirus.

The Community Support Package will provide flexible funding to boost support to services where demand is quickly increasing, including:

  • Emergency Relief which will help vulnerable Australians who need assistance with bills, food, clothing or petrol and increase and retain workforce capacity including volunteers.
  • Assistance for food relief organisations to source additional food and transport for emergency relief service providers, and rebuild workforce capacity.
  • Immediately scale-up services through the National Debt Helpline — which is often the first point of contact for people experiencing financial difficulties, and to support one-on-one tele-financial counselling.
  • Creating a short-form Financial Counselling course through Financial Counselling Australia to train new financial counsellors to boost the workforce, potentially providing hundreds of new jobs.
  • Expanding access to safe, affordable financial products through the No Interest Loan Scheme which provides an immediate financial relief alternative to other high-risk, high-interest products such as credit cards and payday loans.

$150 million will be provided to support Australians experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence due to fallout from coronavirus. Governments are meeting through COAG this week to discuss how to distribute to states and territories.

An initial $74 million will be provided to support the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians.

We will provide more details on Community Door as they are released. For more information see the Prime Minister’s announcement here.

JobKeeper payment

Not-for-profits and charities that have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus will be able to access the JobKeeper wages subsidy to continue paying your employees.

Under the JobKeeper program, you will be able to claim a fortnightly payment of $1,500 for each eligible employee that was employed on 1 March 2020 and continues to be on your books, for a maximum of six months. This assistance will help you keep staff and help you restart when the crisis is over.

Organisations can register their interest through the Australian Tax Office.

More information is available in the JobKeeper fact sheet.

Cash flow assistance for businesses and not-for-profits

The Australian Government is providing up to $100,000 to eligible businesses and not-for-profits (NFPs) that employ people to assist with cash flow.

Employers will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of their salary and wages withheld, with a minimum payment of $10,000 and maximum of $50,000.

An additional payment is also being introduced in the July – October 2020 period. Eligible entities will receive an additional payment equal to the total of all of the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers payments they have received.

This means that eligible entities will receive at least $20,000 up to a total of $100,000 under both payments.

The payment is automatically calculated by the Australian Taxation Office and will be applied to activity statement lodgements. There are no new forms required.

Find out more on the Australian Government website here.

Queensland Government economic relief package

The Queensland Government’s economic relief package includes:

  • Rebates on electricity bills – $200 for all Queensland households and $500 for all Queensland small and medium businesses that consume less than 100,000 kilowatt hours. These rebates will be automatically applied to electricity bills.
  • Payroll tax relief for businesses in the form of a refund of two months’ worth of payroll tax for COVID-19 affected businesses and a payroll tax holiday for eligible businesses.
  • A worker and industry support package to assist workers who lose their job or income with retraining, job-matching and other help to transition into jobs in the industries that are vital to get Queensland through this crisis.
  • Relief for businesses renting government premises.

Find out more on the Queensland Government website.

A dedicated small business hotline has been set up to provide advice to Queensland businesses including not-for-profits. Call 1300 654 687.

More information

We are continuing to add relevant information and links to the COVID-19 section on the Community Door website to keep you up to date with the latest information affecting your community organisation and your clients. Also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for updates.

Visit the Queensland Health website for the most reliable source of health information for Queenslanders.

As always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or updates about what is happening in the community sector. For COVID-19 related issues, contact us on [email protected].

1 April 2020