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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

This Petition Is Calling for Increased Support for Small Businesses During Sydney's Lockdown

Currently, only businesses earning more than $75,000 a year are eligible for government support.
By Ben Hansen
July 06, 2021
  shares
By Ben Hansen
July 06, 2021
  shares

Small businesses are doing it tough in Sydney right now. As the city's latest COVID-19 lockdown rolls on, many businesses have been forced to close and sole traders have lost work. Last week, the NSW Government rolled out support for small businesses that have experienced a decline in revenue by 30 percent or more as a result of the current lockdown.

But, COVID grants are only available to businesses with a turnover of more than $75,000 per financial year. This has left some of the city's smallest businesses and sole traders without support.

In response, a petition started by Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully has been submitted to the NSW Government to lower the threshold for these grants and to include businesses that have been operating for less than 12 months.

The petition states that many businesses in the creative sector and sole traders including musicians, lighting and sound technicians, fitness instructors, caterers and photographers, "live from gig-to-gig on freelance contracts or earn client-to-client, and many commonly earn below the $75,000 threshold, but they are essential contributors to the NSW economy" often with no paid leave entitlements and without an ability to work from home. It also states that, "in the City of Sydney local government area alone there are around 20,000 businesses with a turnover of $50,000 per annum or less".

We talked to two Sydney creatives who have lost work due to the lockdown but are unable to access government grants.

Huck Hastings is a self-funded musician who supports himself and his art mainly through touring. Hastings has had to cancel a series of headline shows, his first tour of Melbourne and his band Hacky Sack's debut show due to the latest COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent restrictions and lockdown.

"I've felt the lockdown pretty significantly, but it feels a bit like just the latest in a series of blows," says Hastings. "You see a lot of artists and musicians giving up at the moment. It's a really tough environment for everybody, but I think often pursuing a career in the arts is seen as a frivolous endeavour and as a result it isn't given the same support as a lot of other industries."

"I have spent so much time and money on my small business and since Jobkeeper ended it's a scary feeling trying to navigate how I might be able to keep it afloat," he says.

Huck Hastings and Sachin Burns of Hacky Sack

Zoe Hyland is a photographer and videographer who doesn't qualify for the grant but has lost the majority of her work because of lockdown.

"I've had cancellations up to November," Hyland says. "The threshold should be lowered to include the smallest businesses, and definitely an industry that has taken the biggest hit — the events industry."

Hyland, who qualified for her permanent residency last September, also believes support should be offered to Sydneysiders on temporary visas.

"I was one of the lucky ones," she says, "[there are] lots of people now heavily in debt as they were trapped in Australia with visas that did not qualify them for help".

While Concrete Playground isn't known for taking sides (unless it's about the west vs. east), this is an issue that involves the industries, businesses and individuals that are crucial to the culture of our cities. They inspire the stories, events and venues that we cover every day. So, we're encouraging you to take a second to sign the petition and get the state government to help these industries hang on during what continues to be a time of uncertainty.

Head to the Parliament of New South Wales website to find the 'Lower the threshold for the Small Business COVID-19 Support Grant' petition.

Top image: The Buoys by April Josie.

Published on July 06, 2021 by Ben Hansen

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