Some Wimmera businesses are faced with difficult decisions in the next few months, as Federal Government wage subsidies begin to gradually taper.
From Monday, the JobKeeper payment - paid to businesses that have suffered significant income loss during the pandemic to keep their staff on - drops from $1500 per fortnight per full-time employee to $1200, and $750 for part-time staff.
To be eligible, businesses must prove to the Australian Taxation Office the decline in turnover between July and September of this year, relative to a comparable period.
From January 4, it will drop again to $1000 and $650 per fortnight, and last until March 28.
The ATO said in a statement businesses must now notify employees if they are still eligible for payments, and if so what rate they will receive.
Lionel Godwin operates UpTempo cafe, a dance studio, photography studio and exercise physiology business in his Baillie Street complex with partner Lynne McKenzie.
He said with the decrease in JobKeeper, he would have to consider letting go some of his four full-time staff members.
"Our intent though is to try and ride it out. We are going to negotiate with our landlord and look at making some changes to our whole operation, with the emphasis on trying to maintain our staffing levels," he said.
Mr Godwin has had to let go casual staff during the pandemic, saying he was $18,000 in arrears paying wages each month while he lost 95 per cent of his income during stage three restrictions.
He said he was only entitled to relief for one of his four businesses, as they all operated under one company structure.
"It would make a huge difference to my partner and I if JobKeeper continued at its current ($1500) level, because then we wouldn't be out of pocket," he said. "We've effectively stopped paying ourselves to prop up the staff wages.
"We've been lucky in that for the seven years we've been here, the four staff that are permanent have been with us all the way through. It is our intention to keep them, but it's going to be at a cost to my partner and I personally.
"I'm firmly of the belief regional Victoria will come out of this strongly in six to eight months, and having the continuity of staff will make a huge difference to us for our planning, but also more importantly for the stability of our operation."
Mr Godwin said as important was restrictions in regional Victoria easing further soon. He is heavily restricted in how much he can open up his four businesses.
On Firebrace Street, Business Horsham deputy chair and Athlete's Foot franchisee Paul Atheron said the JobKeeper changes would affect each industry differently.
"There will be plenty of businesses that have not had their income reduced by 30 per cent (in the September quarter), so they will lose their payment," he said.
"I don't expect to receive JobKeeper this time around. The flipside is we know JobKeeper has been a disincentive for some employees to work, because they are getting paid more than they work, especially if they were casuals.
"So for some businesses it will be good because it's going to force people to apply for work, but I don't know how many of those businesses there are in Horsham. But overall you'd have to say the drop will have some sort of negative impact."
Mr Atheron said the return of regional tourists had improved turnover for his business and others in recent days.
"A reduction in JobKeeper isn't going to impact on me in terms of having to keep staff hours down, because we are coming into the warmer season and starting to pick up on sales," he said.
"I think coronavirus has made us re-examine as business owners what we do in the business. The three weeks where it was just me in the store, I was absolutely fried, so I realised I needed staff in to lessen the workload.
"You have to bring back staff because it gets too much on your own. JobKeeper allowed that to happen, and I think it probably still will."
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