Business guide to Coronavirus

Business hibernation measures explained

The Federal Government hopes businesses and the economy can survive the COVID-19 crisis by ‘hibernating’. It’s introduced a raft of measures to help you hit the pause button… and there’s more to come.

Like a bear hunkering down for a season-long snooze, businesses are being urged to retreat and sit out the storm ahead. When the pandemic is over and we emerge from the crisis, the COVID-19 hibernation plan will hopefully have safeguarded jobs, livelihoods and businesses.

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell welcomed the hibernation concept, saying: “the only way for small business to survive the coming months is if they can effectively hit pause for the time being.” 

When announcing the business hibernation plan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “Australia can ensure we can bounce back better on the other side and more strongly by following these sorts of strategies that enable businesses to re-emerge very, very quickly with their employees, with their capital, with their equipment, with their shop.”

The plan isn’t complete yet, and there’s a lot more to be considered, but here’s what’s on the table so far.

JobKeeper payments

If your business has been significantly impacted by the coronavirus you can claim a wages subsidy to continue paying your employees. It’s a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee from 30 March 2020, for a maximum of six months. Find out more here

Boosting cash flow for employers

The government is providing up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium-sized businesses, and not for profits that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000. These payments will help businesses with their cash flow so they can continue operating, paying their rent, electricity and other bills and retain employees. 

This will be done through two sets of cash flow boosts delivered from 28 April 2020, to be delivered through credits in the activity statement system.

About 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people, and roughly 30,000 not for profits, including charities will benefit. Read the Australian Governments fact sheet on the payments here

Increasing the instant asset write-off

The Federal Government has increased the instant asset write-off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expanded access to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020. 

More than 3.5 million businesses (over 99% of businesses) employing more than 9.7 million employees will benefit. Read this fact sheet for more information

Backing business investment

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 has also been introduced. Businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million will be able to deduct 50% of the cost of an eligible asset on installation, with existing depreciation rules applying to the balance of the asset’s cost. 

More than 3.5 million businesses (over 99% of businesses) employing more than 9.7 million employees will benefit. This measure is estimated to lower taxes paid by Australian businesses by $6.7 billion over the next two years. Find out more here.

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Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses

Measures have been introduced to lessen the threat of actions that could unnecessarily push businesses into insolvency.

The government has temporarily increased the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company and the time companies have to respond to statutory demands. 

The package also includes temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent, and 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 crisis.

The Australia Taxation Office 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.

Find out more about the financially distressed businesses package here

Supporting apprentices and trainees

Finally, let’s not forget apprentices and trainees. Eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50% of an apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for nine 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.

Up to 70,000 small businesses, employing around 117,000 apprentices will benefit.

Latest news

Stay up to date with the most recent COVID-19 announcements relating to your business here. You can also explore our free Business Guide to Coronavirus for dedicated advice, support and solutions to help your business through these uncertain times. 

Marise Donnolley

Editor, Business Australia

Marise Donnolley is a journalist and editor with more than 20 years' experience in the media.