Yesterday, WA Premier Mark McGowan revealed the details of a $1b economic and health relief package. This builds on the $607m in relief and stimulus announced earlier in March and the $706m of economic stimulus measures announced in late 2019.

In this package, the Government has allocated $502m for small businesses including a reduction in electricity bills, licences fees waived, and additional payroll tax relief. 

It is also the first state to officially extend relief to stamp duty in the form of deferral of payment and waiver of late payment penalties, which does not appear to be constrained by the size of the business.

A number of the measures need to meet criteria such as “financial difficulty due to COVID-19”, “community service provider”, “small business”, “directly or indirectly impacted” and energy thresholds.  It is not clear at this stage what those parameters are, and whether related entities are grouped to determine whether they meet the thresholds. 

Support for business

  • A one-off $2,500 credit available for Synergy and Horizon Power business customers that consume less than 50 megawatt hours (MWh) per annum. The credit is available for current customers (as of March 31, 2020) and will be allocated from May 1, 2020 to reduce current and future electricity bills.
  • $100.4m has been allocated to waive a wide range of licence fees for SMEs in COVID-19 impacted industries for the next 12 months. This includes licences for building services, plumbers and electricians; tourism businesses operating in national and marine parks; boat registration and mooring fees for tourism operators and commercial fishers; commercial fisheries licences; taxi booking service authorisation fees; settlement agent licence fees; and other statutory planning fees. Liquor licence renewal fees for 2020 will be waived and refunds provided for businesses that have already paid, benefitting around 5,500 businesses with a liquor licence.
  • No small businesses facing financial difficulty due to COVID-19 will face power or water disconnections due to late payments. In addition, no interest will be charged on deferred bill payments. For electricity, this will apply to Synergy and Horizon Power customers who consume 50MWh or less.

Payroll tax

  • Payroll tax will be waived for a four-month period between 1 March 2020 to 30 June 30 2020 for businesses with Australia-wide annual wages of less than $7.5m in 2019-20. The payroll tax waiver replaces the payroll tax deferral already announced for particular small-to-medium sized businesses.

All WA state taxes (including stamp duty)

  • Households and businesses impacted by COVID-19 can apply for an interest-free payment arrangement and for late payment penalties to be waived for payroll tax, transfer duty, landholder duty, vehicle licence duty or land tax.  We are awaiting advice as to whether land transfer registrations can proceed despite non-payment of duty.

Support for households and individuals

  • Eligibility for the previously announced Energy Assistance Payment boost has been expanded to include new eligible applicants until September 30, 2020. This doubles the amount of the EAP per year to $610 and provides a boost to Western Australians affected by COVID-19.
  • No households in Western Australia experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 will have their power or water disconnected. In addition, as of 1 April 2020 no interest will be charged on deferred bill payments for those experiencing COVID-19-related financial hardship. This applies to Synergy and Horizon Power customers.
  • Keystart customers facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 can apply to defer principal repayments and waive interest costs by up to six months. Assistance will be assessed on a case-by-case basis in line with Keystart's Hardship Assessment policy.
  • These initiatives will be in place until September 30, 2020 and will be reviewed when necessary.

Support for health and community services

  • $500m has been allocated to health and other frontline service delivery, as well as boosting capacity for additional industry support to ensure the Government can continue to provide a strong response to COVID-19.
  • Electricity bills for around 2,800 charities will be reduced, with a one-off $2,500 credit provided for groups on community service and charitable accommodation electricity tariffs with Synergy and Horizon Power.The credit will be allocated from 1 May 2020 to reduce current and future bills. 
  • Funding certainty has been provided to community service providers, with government agencies to continue to pay contracts with the sector until at least June 30, 2020, even if providers are unable to deliver services due to impacts caused by COVID-19.
  • This follows the announcement earlier this week that $159m has been directed from Lotterywest to establish the COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund to support not-for-profit sport, arts and community groups in dealing with the coronavirus. 

The Government will continue to make further announcements to support Western Australians throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020-21 Budget has been deferred until October 8, 2020 in line with the rescheduling of the Commonwealth Budget (October 6, 2020). This will allow governments to focus on measures to respond to COVID-19 and to develop a clearer understanding of the financial and economic impacts as a result of the pandemic.

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