Canberra businesses call for transparency and support to survive extended lockdown

15 September 2021

Desperate Canberra businesses are asking for a significant increase in financial support and more clarity from the ACT Government on its lockdown exit strategy, following news that the Territory lockdown will continue for an additional four weeks.

Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt said business owners could not wait another month for the economy to reopen without immediate access to critical financial support, and needed more transparency from the ACT Government on what the transition out of lockdown will look like.

“The four-week lockdown extension came as little surprise, but our members are disappointed with the lack of clarity around the pathway to economic reopening,” Mr Catt said.

“The National Plan says commercial activity should commence with social distancing and capacity limits when 70% of people have been double vaccinated,” said Mr Catt. “But there has been little meaningful detail given around the thresholds for a staged move back into something that resembles business as usual for Canberra.”

“This is an essential piece of the puzzle for local businesses. They need information to plan ahead, prepare a survival strategy, and put infrastructure in place to keep their business running and look after the welfare of their employees.”

“Without fast access to the right level of financial support to see them through lockdown, and a clear forward plan, they are unable to make informed decisions that impact their livelihoods and their mental health.”

Mr Catt added that local businesses were very concerned that they will see NSW and Victoria resume trading activity before the ACT, despite the Territory’s higher vaccination rates.

He said Canberra businesses were becoming increasingly demoralised as their counterparts in NSW and other Australian states were provided with more information and more support to keep operations going during lockdown.

“Our businesses do appreciate the government support given to date, but they also know their counterparts in NSW are receiving up to 40% of their salary bill. For a $10 million business, that might be $40,000 a week. Their ACT equivalent has been receiving $4000 a week,” Mr Catt said.

“Canberra business owners are eating into their life savings to make ends meet, debts are mounting, and they’re seriously weighing up whether closure is the only option.”

“What began as a seven-day lockdown became a five-week lockdown and now a nine-week lockdown. Our local businesses are increasingly desperate, and we’re getting seriously concerned about their mental health. They need support, they need clarity, and most of all they need hope.”

Media Contact:

Graham Catt, CEO, Canberra Business Chamber T: 02 6247 4199