It’s hoped a new support package announced by the State Government will help Hunter businesses push through tough conditions and low consumer confidence in the Omicron surge.

Local businesses are being urged to apply if they’re eligible.

The program includes a number of measures, including:

  • Businesses with a turnover between $75,000 and $50 million who suffered a 40 percent downturn in January and are projected to do the same in February can apply for payments up to $5000 a week
  • The Small Business Fees and Charges rebate program has been extended to $3000, and can also include 50% of the costs of acquiring rapid antigen tests for the workplace.
  • Commercial landlord relief has been extended until March 13.

Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes is welcoming the package, but says it could be coming too late for some businesses.

“This is going to help some businesses, but we’re concerned that some have probably already gone too far,” Mr Hawes said.

“Particularly going through the summer period, where a lot of businesses traditionally would have made money to put away for quieter times have missed out on that trade.”

“I just hope winter isn’t too severe and I just hope that when the community feels confident, and that it is very soon, that they get out there and spend.”

Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp has echoed those sentiments, arguing the eligibility requirements are too narrow.

There’s concern the program doesn’t address the impact on Christmas trading late last year.

Performing arts support has also been included as part of the package.

Eligible venues, as well as producers and promoters of performances, are able to apply for funding, dependent on average ticket prices and sales.

The State Government announced the measures as part of a response to declining case numbers.

But Mr Hawes says while the COVID situation is definitely improving, we’re not out of the woods yet.

“I think there’s still a way to go,” Mr Hawes said. “There’s a lot of things that have to turn out way to get us back to the recovery pathways that we all anticipated that we were going to be on in late 2021.”

“It’s not just about the community perceptions about being concerned about going out while the virus is so prevalent.”

“It’s also some of this dislocation that we’re seeing in supply chains, we’re still seeing difficulties in the labour market, businesses being able to get labour.”