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Weekly Digest – 9 February 2022

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

Borders to Reopen to International Travel

The borders will be reopened to vaccinated tourists and other visa holders from 21 February. Unvaccinated travellers who have a medical reason for not getting inoculated will need to apply for a travel exemption and will be required to quarantine at a hotel.

Business Confidence Rebounds in January

Business confidence bounced back in January as the Omicron outbreak quickly peaked, as the National Australia Bank business survey for January showed confidence rebounded 15 points. This pick-up in business confidence may further continue into February due to the reopening of international borders.

Australia-UK Free Trade Deal a Step Closer

Australia and the UK is one step closer to a new free trade agreement that will benefit farmers, business owners, investors, and travellers. The free trade will remove red tape and barriers to exports.

The deal is set to remove taxes on 99% of Australian exports worth $10 billion and UK imports worth $200 million. Trade Minister Dan Tehan hopes that the free trade agreement will be finalised within the next year.

Deloitte: Business Investments Likely to Rise After Omicron

Government and business investment in Australian projects is expected to grow steadily in 2022 before accelerating in 2023 and 2024, according to the latest quarterly Investment Monitor report of Deloitte Access Economics. The report stated that before the Omicron outbreak, business investment had returned to pre-COVID levels and had never dropped more than 5% below where it was before the pandemic hit.

Investment in New South Wales and Victoria is expected to grow the fastest.

Lifeline’s Crisis Text Service Goes 24/7

The government has invested $1.5 million to launch a 24/7 crisis text service to expand its support for Australians struggling with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Australians are reaching out to Lifeline’s crisis support and suicide prevention services in record numbers, hitting more than 3700 calls in one day last month.

Lifeline’s 13 11 14 crisis support service allows you to speak to a trained crisis supporter any time of day or night.

NSW Unveils $1 Billion Support Package for Businesses

The New South Wales government has unveiled a $1 billion support package for small- and medium-sized businesses hit by the Omicron outbreak.

However, the payment will be capped at half of what was offered during the Delta wave in 2021, after the federal government refused to split the cost of the package.

The package will provide a payment of 20% of weekly payroll costs to businesses that can prove at least a 40% decline in turnover across January. Payments would range from a minimum of $500 to a maximum of $5,000 a week.

$24 Million for Research to Reduce Pressure on Emergency Departments

Through the Medical Research Future Fund, the government will invest up to $24 million in research to improve acute care systems and reduce emergency department waiting times in hospitals. Up to $3 million will be provided for the top research proposal in each state and territory, to ensure the research provides nationwide benefits.

Rapid Antigen Tests Now Free for Some Australians

Individuals who hold any of the following concession cards can access up to 10 free rapid tests from pharmacies over the next three months:

  • Pensioner concession card
  • Commonwealth seniors health care card
  • DVA gold, white or orange card
  • Health care card
  • Low-income card

If you fit the criteria, you need to visit your local pharmacy in person to get your free tests, or your carer or guardian can do it for you.

Eligibility Criteria for Tourism, Hospitality and Gym Grant in SA Extended

The South Australian government has announced the eligibility criteria for its Tourism, Hospitality and Gym Grant will be extended to include newer businesses that began operating after December 2020.

The payment will be:

  • $3,000 (for employing businesses) or $1,000 (for non-employing businesses);
  • Additional $1,000 for CBD businesses;
  • Additional $7,000 for tourism, hospitality and other eligible businesses with turnover above $2 million;
  • Additional top-up equivalent to automatic payment for businesses that did not receive the automatic payment.

The grant is automatically paid to businesses that have received a COVID-19 Tourism and Hospitality Support Grant or those that received an additional COVID-19 Business Support Grant. You can check for more available grants here.

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

People who are forced out of work to isolate due to being infected or being a close contact are eligible for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.

You are also eligible if you are caring for a child under 16 years old who is a close contact or infected, or someone with a disability or a severe medical condition who is a close contact of someone with COVID-19.

The payment was initially given in the form of a $750 lump sum payment for seven days. However, this changed slightly from 18 January into a tiered system. While it remains a lump sum payment, those who lose over 20 hours of work will receive the full $750, but if you lose between 8 and 20 hours, you will only receive $450.

A financial hardship test has also been introduced, which means anyone with $10,000 available and accessible to them will not get the payment.

You can find more information about Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment conditions specific to your state or territory here.

Support for Small Businesses

If your business is struggling, the ATO offers a wide range of support for those affected by the pandemic, natural disasters, mental health issues, or financial difficulties.

Learn more about the available support, and the small business debt helpline for free, independent advice.

Webinars to Help You Become More Efficient with Tax and Super

The ATO will be offering two webinars this January and February to help you streamline processes and manage your tax and super online.

These sessions will teach you the ins and outs of GST, pay as you go withholding, pay as you go instalments, how to lodge your tax returns, and more. Need expert help with your tax and super? Get in touch with us today!

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Contact us if you have any questions or want to discuss the next steps for your business.

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