FEDERAL Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters has called on the federal government to provide greater assistance to the business community, as the struggle for many to stay afloat continues in the state's fifth lockdown.
Ms Chesters wants an upgraded model of JobKeeper provided, to support small businesses beyond the lockdown, which is expected to be wound back as early as tonight.
Ms Chesters said the 2020 JobKeeper model saw big businesses across the nation make considerable profits, with data revealing 157,650 businesses actually had a turnover that rose over April to June.
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Ms Chesters said she was worried about the long-term job prospects of central Victoria without immediate JobKeeper-styled action.
"I am advocating for JobKeeper to come back without the rorts and with tighter rules," she said.
"It shouldn't be a system that's free for all like last time because clearly that didn't work with big businesses keeping the money.
"Businesses who received JobKeeper last year are already registered and the paperwork is there, it would be easy to restart the program with modifications to ensure those businesses whose sales are down still have the ability to connect with their workers.
"I worry about the long-term impact the lack of support will have on our region."
Australian Hotels Association Victoria executive board member and Hotel Shamrock owner Ray Sharawara supported the return of a reviewed JobKeeper but also said additional funding injections to help businesses pay their bills when closed by lockdowns were needed.
"The association would love to see some sort of reformed JobKeeper in place if possible," he said. "We also want a scheme that recognises the size of our business.
"This scheme could be set up by the state or federal government where businesses can get support on what they're losing based on their size. For venues with a capacity up to 200 - they get 'x' amount - for those up to 250 - another amount - and for large venues up to 500 - they would receive more money because there's different needs.
"We would like a proportional scheme for businesses and a support system for our staff. It's a lot of money but it's what we need to survive."
Mr Sharawara said the AHA had gone to the state and federal governments about the proportional business schemes.
Winter Sounds and Riverboats Music Festival director David Frazer said it was vital JobKeeper was reconsidered so the arts industry didn't lose its talent pool.
Our sector continues to be pummelled by the uncertainty of Covid and dipping in and out of lockdown, it's just killing us.David Frazer
"One of the great challenges is the expectations from audiences is that festivals, events and gigs will return but unfortunately that's not the reality because we know there are thousands of people leaving the industry.
"The reality is that once you lose that talent it doesn't just materialise.
"Our one saving grace last year was that some of us could access JobKeeper including a number of promoters who could keep their staff and then could start thinking about the next festival.
"I think it's desperately needed."
Ms Chesters wants a revitalised model of JobKeeper, including criteria based on localities under lockdown and how long businesses are affected by restrictions.
She said the current federal government grants were confusing for people to navigate and her office had spent a considerable amount of time helping workers, employers and jobseekers thought the Centrelink system.
"Even if the lockdown lifted on Tuesday, our businesses will still be operating under some restrictions," she said.
"Businesses aren't just losing 30 per cent of their turnover, we're talking about our small business losing 90-95 per cent of their turnover.
"Our local coffee shops are usually bustling on a Saturday morning with brunch and now they've got a couple of coffee orders - that's a massive hit to their income and their abilities to pay staff and overhead costs.
"Until people are vaccinated, we are at risk of lockdown.
"The Prime Minister has said we will not all be vaccinated until end of year, so he needs a better plan."
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