Covid-19 Community Update

Dear community member,

As we are entering unprecedented territory we are attempting to reach as many business owners and community groups as possible.

This email is intended to provide you a snapshot of support that is available to you and your business during this trying time.

Members of the community are urged to keep calm during this time and to continue to observe social etiquette. We are reiterating the Prime Ministers directive that there exists no need to bulk purchased items nor is there an expectation that an interruption in supply chain will occur that would lead to an inability to obtain goods and services that would normally be available.

If you are a business, continuing to operate during this time, we urge you to complete the below survey, which upon completion, your trading status will be listing on the Dungog Shire Council Facebook page; at your discretion, to provide information to the community. We will continue to provide updates on the Dungog Shire Council Facebook page as more information becomes available. If you do not follow Dungog Shire Council on Facebook, you can do so by visiting https://www.facebook.com/dungogcouncil/ and pushing “like”.

Survey can be completed through the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VLVWRYG

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Federal and statement government has released economic stimulus targeting three areas which may be of assistance to you during this trying time:

  • Supporting Individuals and Households
  • Support for Businesses
  • Supporting the flow of credit

More information on these stimulus measures and how to access is included within the subsections below:

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Table of Contents
•    Context
•    Day to day living & Social etiquette
o    How to seek medical attention
o    Social-isolation (self-quarantine)
o    How to self-isolate
o    Social distancing
    At home
    In the workplace
    In schools
o    Who is the most at risk
o    Where to get more information and how to stay up to date
•    Supporting Individuals and Households
o    Income support for individuals
o    Payments to support households
o    Temporary early release of superannuation
o    Temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown rates
o    Reducing social security deeming rates
•    Support for Businesses
o    Boosting cash flow for employers
o    Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses
o    Increasing the instant asset write-off
o    Backing business investment
o    Supporting apprentices and trainees
o    Support for Coronavirus-affected regions and communities
o    Coronavirus Business Liaison Unit
•    Supporting the flow of credit
o    Support for immediate cash flow needs for SMEs
o    Quick and efficient access to credit for small business
o    Reserve Bank of Australia – Supporting the flow and reducing the cost of credit
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Context

The World Health Organization has announced that COVID-19 is a pandemic. Currently, Australia does not have widespread community transmission of COVID-19. The situation is changing rapidly. As at 6.30am on 22 March 2020, there have been 1,098 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia. There have been 224 new cases since 6.30am yesterday. Of the 1,098 confirmed cases in Australia, 7 have died from COVID-19. More than 127,000 tests have been conducted across Australia. To date, most confirmed cases are considered to have been acquired overseas although a large proportion are still under investigation to understand the source of infection.
As a result of this ever changing situation, community members are encouraged to review and adjust their day to day living arrangements and practice the new normal social etiquette.
You can visit https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-current-situation-and-case-numbers for live updates.

Day to day living & social etiquette

How to seek medical attention
If you are sick and think you have symptoms of COVID-19, seek medical attention. If you want to talk to someone about your symptoms first, call the Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice.
The number is 1800 020 080

Social-isolation (self-quarantine)
You must self-isolate if any of the following applies to you:
•    you have COVID-19
•    you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
•    you arrived in Australia after midnight on 15 March 2020

If you do not need to self-isolate, you should still protect yourself and others.

How to self-isolate
You must stay at home to prevent the possible spread of the virus to other people.
See specific advice for self-isolation when:
•    you are sick
•    you are not sick

Staying home means you:
•    do not go to public places such as work, school, shopping centres, childcare or university
•    ask someone to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door
•    do not let visitors in — only people who usually live with you should be in your home
•    do not need to wear a mask in your home, but do wear one if you have to go out (for example to seek medical attention)
•    should stay in touch by phone and online with your family and friends
For students and children, you should notify the relevant school or childcare centre. Students may want to seek alternate arrangements for remote learning.

Social distancing
One way to slow the spread of viruses is social distancing. There are practical things you can do, to protect those more susceptible to the virus.

Households
•    Practice good hand and cough/sneeze hygiene
•    Avoid handshaking and other physical greetings
•    Regularly clean shared high-touch surfaces, such as tables, kitchen benches and doorknobs
•    Increase the amount of fresh air by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning
•    Buy more goods and services online so you limit visits to the shop
•    Consider what travel and outings are necessary, both individual and family, and go to open places such as parks

Social distancing in the workplace
•    Stay at home if you are sick
•    Consider if large gatherings can be rescheduled, staggered or cancelled
•    Stop handshaking and other physical greetings
•    Hold meetings via video conferencing or phone call
•    Reconsider non-essential business travel
•    Defer large face-to-face meetings
•    Hold essential meetings outside in the open air if possible
•    Promote good hand and cough/sneeze hygiene and provide hand sanitisers for all staff and workers
•    Take lunch outside rather than in the lunch room
•    Clean and disinfect shared high-touch surfaces regularly
•    Consider opening windows and adjusting air conditioning for more fresh air
•    Limit food handling and shared food in the workplace
•    Promote strictest hygiene among food preparation (canteen) staff and their close contacts

Social distancing in schools
•    If your child is sick, do not send them to school (or childcare)
•    Clean hands when entering school and at regular intervals
•    Defer activities that lead to mixing between classes and years
•    Avoid queuing, handholding and assemblies
•    Promote a regular handwashing schedule
•    Clean and disinfect shared high-touch surfaces regularly
•    Conduct lessons outdoors where possible
•    Consider opening windows and adjusting conditioning for more fresh air
•    Promote strictest hygiene among food preparation (canteen) staff and their close contacts

Who is the most at risk
In Australia, the people most at risk of getting the virus are those who have:
•    recently been in in a high risk country or region (mainland China, Iran, Italy or Korea)
•    been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19

Based on what we know about coronaviruses, those most at risk of serious infection are:
•    people with compromised immune systems (such as people who have cancer)
•    elderly people
•    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (as they have higher rates of chronic illness)
•    people with chronic medical conditions
•    people in group residential settings
•    people in detention facilities
To help protect people most at risk, we have recommended limits on public gatherings and visits to vulnerable groups.

Where to get more information and how to stay up to date
Please visit www.health.gov.au for the most update information.

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Supporting Individuals and Households

Income support for individuals
Over the next six months, the Government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. This will be paid to both existing and new recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.
The wait period is also being waived during this trying time.
More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Income_Support_for_Individuals.pdf

Payments to support households
The Government is providing two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. The first payment will be made from 31 March 2020 and the second payment will be made from 13 July 2020. Around half of those that benefit are pensioners. This payment will help to support confidence and domestic demand in the economy. The second payment will not be made to those eligible for the Coronavirus supplement.

More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Payments_to_support_households.pdf

Temporary early release of superannuation
The Government is allowing individuals affected by the Coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. Individuals will not need to pay tax on amounts released and the money they withdraw will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.
More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Early_Access_to_Super_1.pdf

Temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown rates
The Government is temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions and similar products by 50 per cent for 2019-20 and 2020-21. This measure will benefit retirees holding these products by reducing the need to sell investment assets to fund minimum drawdown requirements.
More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Providing_support_for_retirees_to_manage_market_volatility.pdf

Reducing social security deeming rates
On 12 March, the Government announced a 0.5 percentage point reduction in both the upper and lower social security deeming rates. The Government will now reduce these rates by another 0.25 percentage points.

As of 1 May 2020, the upper deeming rate will be 2.25 per cent and the lower deeming rate will be 0.25 per cent. The reductions reflect the low interest rate environment and its impact on the income from savings. The change will benefit around 900,000 income support recipients, including around 565,000 Age Pensioners who will, on average receive around $105 more of the Age Pension in the first full year the reduced rates apply.

More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Providing_support_for_retirees_to_manage_market_volatility.pdf

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Support for Businesses

Boosting cash flow for employers
The Government is enhancing the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure it announced on 12 March 2020. The Government is providing up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium-sized businesses, and not for-profits (NFPs) that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000. These payments will help businesses and NFPs with their cash flow so they can keep operating, pay their rent, electricity and other bills and retain staff.

This measure will benefit around 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people, and around 30,000 NFPs (including charities).

Small and medium-sized business entities with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million and that employ workers are eligible. NFPs, including charities, with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million and that employ workers will now also be eligible. This will support employment at a time where NFPs are facing increasing demand for services.

Under the enhanced scheme, employers will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of their salary and wages withheld (up from 50 per cent), with the maximum payment being increased from $25,000 to $50,000. In addition, the minimum payment is being increased from $2,000 to $10,000.

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.

More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Cash_flow_assistance_for_businesses_0.pdf

Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses
The economic impacts of the Coronavirus and health measures to prevent its spread could see many otherwise profitable and viable businesses temporarily face financial distress. It is important that these businesses have a safety net to make sure that when the crisis has passed they can resume normal business operations. One element of that safety net is to lessen the threat of actions that could unnecessarily push them into insolvency and force the winding up of the business.

The Government is temporarily increasing the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company and the time companies have to respond to statutory demands they receive. The package also includes temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent, and providing temporary flexibility in the Corporations Act 2001 to provide temporary and targeted relief from provisions of the Act to deal with unforeseen events that arise as a result of the Coronavirus health crisis.

The ATO will tailor solutions for owners or directors of business that are currently struggling due to the Coronavirus, including temporary reduction of payments or deferrals, or withholding enforcement actions including Director Penalty Notices and wind-ups.

More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Providing_temporary_relief_for_financially_distressed_businesses.pdf

Increasing the instant asset write-off
The Government is increasing the instant asset write-off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expanding access to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020. In 2017-18 there were more than 360,000 businesses that benefited from the current instant asset write-off, claiming deductions to the value of over $4 billion. This measure will support over 3.5 million businesses (over 99 per cent of businesses) employing more than 9.7 million employees.
More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_Sheet-Delivering_support_for_business_investment.pdf

Backing business investment
The Government is introducing a time limited 15 month investment incentive (through to 30 June 2021) to support business investment and economic growth over the short term, by accelerating depreciation deductions. Businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million will be able to deduct 50 per cent of the cost of an eligible asset on installation, with existing depreciation rules applying to the balance of the asset’s cost. This measure will support business investment and is estimated to lower taxes paid by Australian businesses by $6.7 billion over the next two years. This measure will support over 3.5 million businesses (over 99 per cent of businesses) employing more than 9.7 million employees.
More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_Sheet-Delivering_support_for_business_investment.pdf

Supporting apprentices and trainees
The Government is supporting small business to retain their apprentices and trainees. Eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. Where a small business is not able to retain an apprentice, the subsidy will be available to a new employer that employs that apprentice. Employers will be reimbursed up to a maximum of $21,000 per eligible apprentice or trainee ($7,000 per quarter).
Support will also be provided to the National Apprentice Employment Network, the peak national body representing Group Training Organisations, to co-ordinate the re-employment of displaced apprentices and trainees throughout their network of host employers across Australia.
More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Cash_flow_assistance_for_businesses_0.pdf

Support for Coronavirus-affected regions and communities
The Government will set aside $1 billion to support regions most significantly affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. These funds will be available to assist during the outbreak and the recovery. In addition, the Government is assisting our airline industry by providing relief from a number of taxes and Government charges estimated to total up to $715 million.
More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Assistance_for_severely_affected_regions_and_sectors.pdf

Coronavirus Business Liaison Unit
A Coronavirus Business Liaison Unit has been established within The Treasury to engage with business on a regular basis and provide updates to government on crucial issues.
This liaison unit is comprised of major business community groups to engage with the government to raise issues as they arise.
More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/policy-topics/business-and-industry/coronavirus-business-liaison-unit

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Supporting the flow of credit from banks

Support for immediate cash flow needs for SMEs
Under the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme, the Government will provide a guarantee of 50 per cent to SME lenders to support new short-term unsecured loans to SMEs. The Scheme will guarantee up to $40 billion of new lending. This will provide businesses with funding to meet cash flow needs, by further enhancing lenders’ willingness and ability to provide credit. This will assist otherwise viable businesses across the economy who are facing significant challenges due to disrupted cash flow to meet existing obligations.
More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Supporting_the_flow_of_credit_1.pdf

Quick and efficient access to credit for small business
The Government is cutting red tape by providing a temporary exemption from responsible lending obligations for lenders providing credit to existing small business customers. This reform will help small businesses get access to credit quickly and efficiently.
More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Supporting_the_flow_of_credit_1.pdf

Reserve Bank of Australia – Supporting the flow and reducing the cost of credit
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) announced a package on 19 March 2020 that will put downward pressure on borrowing costs for households and businesses. This will help mitigate the adverse consequences of the Coronavirus on businesses and support their day-to-day trading operations. The RBA is supporting small businesses as a particular priority.

The RBA announced a term funding facility for the banking system. Banks will have access to at least $90 billion in funding at a fixed interest rate of 0.25 per cent. This will reinforce the benefits of a low cash rate by reducing funding costs for banks, which in turn will help reduce interest rates for borrowers. To encourage lending to businesses, the facility offers additional low-cost funding to banks if they expand their business lending, with particular incentives applying to new loans to SMEs.

In addition, the RBA announced a further easing in monetary policy by reducing the cash rate to 0.25 per cent. It is also extending and complementing the interest rate cut by taking active steps to target a 0.25 per cent yield on 3-year Australian Government Securities.
More information available at: https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/Fact_sheet-Supporting_the_flow_of_credit_1.pdf

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We note, due to an increase demand in certain government services; including Mygov and Centrelink, some additional delays may be incurred during this time. We thank you for your patience and understanding as all agencies continue to work through the difficulties.

As more information becomes available we will endeavour to keep you all informed, for further information and additional council updates, please ensure you have liked and are following the Dungog Shire Council Facebook page.