City News

Creatives left ostracised from Small Business COVID-19 Grants

Enforced COVID-19 restrictions throughout Greater Sydney has been especially difficult for the creative sector. Photo: Creative Commons

By DANIEL LO SURDO

Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich and Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney Jess Scully yesterday launched a joint Parliament petition to extend financial support to the creative sector as part of the NSW Government’s Small Business COVID-19 Grants. 

The petition has called on the State to reduce the $75,000 turnover threshold as part of the eligibility criteria for the Small Business COVID-19 Grants, with Greenwich understanding that the threshold made most businesses in the creative sector unable to access government support. 

“I’m deeply concerned that the requirements for these grants, which are supposed to help businesses impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, have actually locked out thousands of small businesses and sole traders who need them the most,” Greenwich said. 

“Creative businesses have already been devastated by this pandemic. I urge the government to make sure financial support is available to them now, so that Sydney still has a cultural sector to enjoy when lockdown ends.”

Left in the cold

The grants package, announced earlier this week, divided financial assistance into three categories. Businesses who had suffered a 70 per cent decline in revenue would receive $10,000, businesses with a 50 per cent decline would be given $7000, and those with a 30 per cent decline would be entitled to $5000 in financial assistance. 

The stipulation to the package remains however that businesses or sole traders must have recorded over $75,000 turnover per annum as of 1 July 2020. It’s a requisite that Greenwich believes has left those in the creative sector increasingly vulnerable to continued financial turmoil.

“The 2017 Australia Council report ‘Making Art Work’ found that professional artists earned an average gross income of $48,400,” Greenwich said. 

“I’ve already been contacted by many sole traders including actors, DJs, musicians, technicians, and designers, who tell me their pre-pandemic income was well under $75,000.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Scully recognised the importance of the creative sector and its abrupt vulnerability to the recently-imposed lockdowns. 

“The restrictions hit the creative and personal services sectors first, and overnight these small businesses and sole traders have had their income eliminated and forward bookings wiped out,” Scully said.

“I’ve received dozens of personal stories from people who have found their incomes shrink to zero due to the restrictions introduced by the NSW Government, effective immediately, and all future projects postponed … we ask the NSW Government to throw these businesses a lifeline.” 

In the City of Sydney alone, there are approximately 20,000 businesses with a turnover of $50,000 per annum or less, making inner-city trade particularly vulnerable to the lockdowns. 

As of 2 July, the NSW Parliament petition has amassed over 1700 signatures and is expected to close on the 8th of July. 

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