A quarter of a million Victorians are set to lose their jobs this week as a result of the state’s harsh Stage Four lockdown restrictions, which saw the closure of all non-essential stores.
Melbourne residents will only be allowed to venture out of their homes once a day for essential supplies and food, and once for an hour of exercise.
The only stores to remain open are: supermarkets, grocery stores, bottle shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks, newsagents and post offices.
Premier Daniel Andrews said while the measures were “heartbreaking”, it was “the only way” to stop the spread of Covid-19.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (VCCI) said while it was somewhat positive that some vital industries would still be able to operate under a “pilot light” setting, the restrictions would “severely damage” jobs and productivity.
“We know that for us to get into a position again where we talk about recovery, the health crisis needs to be brought under control...But the cost of the actions to get to that point will be devastating and long-lasting, with the effects felt by all of us for many years,” VCCI chief executive Paul Guerra said.
Also read: Unemployment to peak at 9.25% this December
Kmart parent company Wesfarmers revealed the group derived approximately 17 per cent of retail sales from stores in metropolitan Melbourne during the 2020 financial year, but with these forced to close as a result of the lockdown, revenue could take a hit.
“Wesfarmers and its divisions will endeavour to support its approximately 30,000 Victorian team members through this difficult time and work with the relevant authorities on strategies to reduce the risks of COVID-19 and recommence operations as soon as appropriate,” the company stated.
“Any team member stood down will receive a support payment equivalent to two weeks of normal rostered hours. Following this two-week period, the group will provide permanent team members with access to existing accrued leave entitlements.”
The company will also provide paid pandemic leave to eligible permanent and casual team members who may be required to self-isolate pending Covid-19 test results or other related reasons.
This is separate from the government’s official $1,500 per fortnight ‘disaster payment’ announced on Tuesday.
The official unemployment rate in Victoria was predicted to peak at 9 per cent in September, with a further 40,000 expected to lose their jobs prior to the Stage Four restrictions.
The figure is expected to “surge” higher throughout August as a result of the new restrictions, according to IBISWorld senior industry analyst Matthew Barry.
“Stronger measures are necessary to fully flatten the COVID-19 curve,” he said.
“Despite the heavy toll imposed by these restrictions, the cost is necessary to avoid the threat of a truly uncontainable outbreak.”
The state is expected to record a budget deficit of $7.5 billion in 2019-20, down from a $618 million surplus originally anticipated for the year.
It would be the first deficit recorded in almost 30 years.
Help for ailing businesses
Victorian businesses suffering as a result of the restrictions can access a piece of the state government’s $600 million support.
Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire businesses will be able to apply for a $5,000 grant, which is in addition to the existing $5,000 grant available through the Business Support Fund Expansion Program.
Regional Victorian businesses can also apply for a $5,00 grant to support their business.
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