COVID-19 Small Business Hardship Scheme - FAQs


The purpose of the Small Business Hardship Scheme is to provide assistance with costs that smaller businesses may have incurred for water, electricity, gas, and rates between 1 July 2021 and 31 December 2021 and commercial vehicle registration paid between 1 January and 31 December 2021. It complements the Business Support Grants program, as well as other assistance offered by the ACT Government through waivers of various fees and charges.

Applications close on 31 January 2022.

Last updated 15/11/2021

About the scheme

What is the COVID-19 Small Business Hardship Scheme?

The Small Business Hardship Scheme delivers additional financial support to eligible small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown through providing a one-off reimbursement of up to $10,000 for costs incurred for utilities (water, electricity and gas), rates and commercial vehicle registration. Reimbursements are inclusive of GST, where applicable.

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What expenses are eligible for reimbursement under the Small Business Hardship Scheme?

Eligible expenses for reimbursement are:

  • Utilities (water, electricity and gas)
  • Commercial (not residential) rates
  • Commercial vehicle registration fees

These expenses must be in the name of your business. Residential/individual expenses are not eligible for this scheme.

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Are there any restrictions on eligible expenses?

Yes, there are some restrictions depending on the fees and charges being claimed:

If you have already applied for commercial rates relief under the Commercial Tenancies Declaration, you cannot also apply for reimbursement of rates through the Small Business Hardship Scheme.

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What evidence of these expenses is required?

Proof of payment of these expenses is required. This could take the form of:

  • Printed or electronic receipts of payment
  • Bank statements or credit card statements with the relevant payment highlighted.

For more information on providing proof of payment and other supporting documents, click here.

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Over what period can eligible expenses be reimbursed?

The period for reimbursement depends on what expenses are being claimed:

  • Utility bills (water, electricity, and gas) issued against the business’ account need to have been paid between 1 July to 31 December 2021.
  • Commercial rates incurred for the business’ premises need to have been paid between 1 July to 31 December 2021.
  • Motor vehicles registered in the business name need to have been paid between 1 January to 31 December 2021.

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Why are utilities, rates and commercial vehicle registrations included in the reimbursements under this scheme and not any other ACT Government fees and charges?

This scheme is designed to provide additional assistance to small businesses by offering reimbursement of some of the most common costs (utilities, rates, registration) associated with operating a business.

The ACT Government has already implemented fee reductions and waivers on additional charges incurred by small businesses.

2021-22 ACT Government fee reduction and waivers.

Occupational registration fee waivers - construction/ building industry

The ACT Government is providing fee reduction and fee waivers to support occupation licensees and business licensees impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Hire car and charter bus registration fee waiver

The ACT Government is waiving hire car and charter bus registration fees from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, to assist hire car operators and charter bus operators during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rideshare Licence Rebate

The waiver of rideshare vehicle licence fees has also been extended by 12 months, to 31 August 2022.

Outdoor Dining Fees

The outdoor dining permit fee waiver has been extended for another 12 months, until 30 June 2022.

Food Business Registration Fees

The food business registration fee waiver has been extended until 31 March 2022. If food business registration has been prepaid for more than one year in advance, an additional 12 months will be added to the licence.

Liquor Fee Waivers

The annual licence fee waiver for some liquor licensees has been tapered to provide a 50 per cent fee reduction for 12 months from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022. Eligible licensees include nightclub licence, restaurant and café licence, bar licence, general licence, catering licence, special licence and club licence.

Commercial Liquor Permit Fee Waivers

Commercial Liquor Permits will be issued to on licensees allowing for the sale of takeaway liquor until 30 September 2021. The application fee for a commercial liquor permit is waived as part of this measure. The permits will be issued automatically for those that took up the same opportunity in 2020.

ACT Government parking charges were also suspended during the lockdown until 1 November 2021 to assist essential workers and businesses.

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Can I claim the GST component of my bills?

The application will ask you to provide the total cost (including GST) and any GST paid. If you are a GST-registered business, you will be reimbursed the net amount (excluding GST), as you can claim the GST as an input tax credit. If your business is not registered for GST, you will be reimbursed the gross amount (including GST).

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Why is it a one-off reimbursement and can I submit multiple applications?

The Small Business Hardship Scheme provides a one-off reimbursement for eligible expenses (utilities, rates and commercial vehicle registration). To claim the maximum benefit, of $10,000, under the scheme businesses can wait until they have paid all the eligible expenses and then make one application to the scheme for one-off reimbursement.

A one-off reimbursement process speeds up processing and compliance checks as well as removing the need for multiple applications.

[updated 16/11/21]

The reimbursements I have applied for add up to over $10,000 – do I need to remove one or manually adjust the amounts down to equal exactly $10,000?

The reimbursement available to eligible businesses is up to a maximum of $10,000.  You can attach all the invoices and proof of payments you wish to claim in your application.  If the total expenses claimed is over $10,000, you will receive a capped amount of $10,000.  You do not need to make any manual adjustments to the amount you are claiming in your form. Where applicable reimbursements include the GST amount.

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How long will it take to receive a payment?

Payments will be made on average within 30 days of a correctly lodged application. If we need to seek further information from you, this can delay your payment.

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Eligibility

I wasn’t approved for a COVID-19Business Support Grant, can I still apply for this scheme?

This depends on the reasons you were not eligible for a Business Support Grant. If you meet the criteria for the Small Business Hardship Scheme, we suggest you submit an application.

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My Business Support Grant payment is still being processed, will I need to submit all my supporting evidence again?

No, you do not need to re-submit your supporting evidence of a 30% decline in turnover but we will ask you for your Business Support Grant application reference number so we can cross-reference your applications.

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Do I need to submit my bank statements?

Yes, this is so we can confirm your business is linked to your nominated bank account and that we are making payment to the correct bank account.

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Are there any sectors not eligible for the Small Business Hardship Scheme?

No, all sectors impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown can apply for the Small Business Hardship Scheme.

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If I received a TAPAEHF sector specific payment, can I still apply for this Scheme?

Yes, the Small Business Hardship Scheme has been designed to complement the Business Support Grants program as well as other assistance offered by the ACT Government including the waivers of various fees and charges.

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My business has an annual turnover of less than $30,000, can I apply?

No, your business must have an annual turnover of more than $30,000 to be eligible for the Small Business Hardship Scheme.

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I have a new micro-business and have not yet submitted my income tax return. How can I demonstrate I have annual turnover above $30,000?

Micro-businesses established in the 2020-21 Financial Year may not have submitted a business activity statement or income tax return. These businesses should include the following words in their statutory declaration:

“[my business] had a turnover of over $30,000 in either the 2019-20 or 2020-21 financial years”

Micro-businesses that were trading in the 2019-20 financial year or earlier should provide a submitted income tax return as evidence they meet the income threshold.

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Do I have to show a 30% decline in turnover due to restricted trading conditions?

To be eligible you must have experienced a 30% reduction in revenue due to restricted trading conditions. In your application you must provide a Statutory Declaration (Statutory Declaration – entity; Statutory Declaration – sole trader) to support this.  While you don’t need to submit supporting documentation as part of your application, businesses are required to retain supporting information for two years and produce this information at the request of the ACT Government.

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Why have the eligibility requirements for this Scheme changed?

The Small Business Hardship Scheme has been designed to complement the Business Support Grants and to help smaller businesses with costs they may have incurred.

Larger businesses with a turnover of more than $2 million receive significant support through the Business Support Grants and larger business top up payments.

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I have applied for rates relief through the Commercial Tenancies declaration, can I apply for this scheme?

If you have already applied for rates relief under the Commercial Tenancies Declaration, you cannot also apply for reimbursement of rates through this scheme. You can still seek reimbursement for utilities (water, electricity, gas and) and commercial vehicle registration fees.

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Is my taxi, or rideshare vehicle considered a commercial vehicle for the purposes of this scheme?

Yes, taxis and rideshare vehicles are considered as commercial vehicles under this scheme. Please note that the reimbursements apply to vehicles registered under a business name, and not personal registrations.

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I am a contractor, can I apply for this scheme?

Yes, if you meet all the eligibility criteria.

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If I received financial support from the Commonwealth, or another State or Territory, can I still apply for this scheme?

Yes, you can apply for the Small Business Hardship Scheme if you have received COVID-19 support from another Australian Government.

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The vehicle I use for business purposes is registered outside the ACT – can I still claim a commercial vehicle registration reimbursement?

No, reimbursement of commercial vehicle registration is only available for vehicles registered in the ACT, by a business.

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Supporting evidence

I have already supplied all by evidence through the Business Support Grant process, do I have to resubmit?

No, you do not need to resubmit this evidence of your 30% decline in turnover. You will need to provide limited business information so assessors can cross-reference your application.

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I didn’t apply for a Business Support Grant and my annual turnover is over $75,000. What evidence do I need to provide to access the Small Business Hardship Scheme?

You can watch a tutorial on the evidence and supporting documentation you’ll need to provide by clicking here. Or read below.

Businesses who didn’t apply for the Business Support Grant and whose annual turnover is between $30,000 and $2 million will need to provide the following evidence with their Small Business Hardship Scheme application:

  • The ABN for the business, used to confirm business registration.
  • A lodged Australian income tax return (preferred), 12 months worth of lodged Business Activity Statements (BAS), or other documentation demonstrating annual turnover of between $30,000 and $2 million (excluding GST) in either the 2019-20 or 2020-21 financial year.
  • A Statutory Declaration (Statutory Declaration – entity; Statutory Declaration – sole trader) stating their business experienced at least a 30 per cent reduction in revenue due to restricted trading conditions. Please use the template supplied.
  • Information required to register for payment through ACT Government finance systems, including bank account details and GST paying status.
  • A bank statement to evidence their bank account details and link to the business’ ABN.
  • Details of the applicant’s qualified accountant, registered tax agent or registered BAS agent, if applicable.
  • A declaration that the business meets the eligibility criteria.
  • A declaration that the applicant is authorised to act on behalf of the business and that the information provided in the Application is true and correct.
  • Or, in the event that a Authorised Agent is making the application, the applicant business has confirmed to the Authorised Agent that the statements set out and information provided in this application are true and correct.
  • A declaration they will retain and supply upon request evidence to support the declaration should it be requested as part of compliance activities.

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To claim the rebate, the applicant must have a business account with the utility retailer and have made payments between 1 July and 31 December 2021.

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I run a home-based business. Can I provide my residential utility expenses?

No, Small Business Hardship Scheme assistance only applies to commercial rates and business utility accounts.

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How can I work out if I have a 30% decline in revenue because of lockdown?

To determine if a business has experienced a 30% reduction in turnover:

Select a consecutive 7-day period (Impacted Period) between 13 August to 15 October (inclusive) where your business turnover was most impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

Select a consecutive seven-day period (Benchmark Period) in April to August 2021 for which you would have been doing similar business activities to the 7-day lockdown period.

Calculate the reduction in turnover using the following formula:

Reduction in turnover % = [1 - (GST turnover in Impacted Period/GST turnover in Benchmark Period)] x 100

Please note this table is not sufficient evidence without supporting documentation.

Decline in turnover calculation template:

Turnover for impacted period

What was your business’ turnover for a minimum consecutive 7 days between 13 August and 15 October 2021 inclusive

[insert dates used]

[insert GST turnover]

Turnover for benchmark period

What was your business’ turnover for a minimum consecutive 7 days between April and August inclusive for which you would have been doing similar business activity to the 7 day lockdown period.

[insert dates used]

[insert GST turnover]

Description

Describe why the two periods chosen represents comparable activity

Decline in turnover (in dollars)

Turnover for benchmark period – Turnover for impacted period equals Decline in Turnover ($)

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What evidence of a 30% decline in turnover should I retain, and for how long?

Businesses are required to retain supporting information for two years and produce this information at the request of the ACT Government.

In addition to the information provided at application (refer Section 4 of the guidelines), evidence of information that could be made available if required includes records and documents submitted with application:

  • Bank statements for the 7-day period in lockdown and the comparable 7-day period between 1 April and 12 August 2021 that demonstrate that revenue decreased by at least 30% as a direct result of lockdown;
  • Other revenue comparison data for the consecutive 7-day period in April 2021 to August 2021 to the assessment period;
  • Emails or texts to or from clients or suppliers detailing cancelled orders or appointments;
  • Receipts for refunds provided;
  • Invoices or delivery dockets;
  • Appointment/scheduling platform, demonstrating cancelled appointments or bookings; and / or
  • Screenshots of cancelled events.

These forms of evidence can support your claim of a 30% reduction in revenue due to restricted trading in the lockdown.

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My bank account details have changed since I applied for the Business Support Grant. How do I update my information?

In the application process, you will have the opportunity to provide your bank statement again.

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Where do I find my Business Support Grant (BSG) application reference number to include in my Small Business Hardship Scheme application?

Your BSG reference number can be found on the confirmation email you received when lodging your Business Support Grant application. It can also be found on your remittance email. You will also be able to see your BSG reference number when you log onto the SmartyGrants system.

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What if the value of my eligible items for reimbursement is over $10,000?

The maximum amount that will be paid to each business is $10,000.

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How do I get and complete a statutory declaration to demonstrate that my business is eligible under this scheme?

A template is provided here to assist you with the Statutory Declaration. This must be signed and witnessed by an authorised person. A list of authorised people can be found at the end of the template. Upload a PDF or screenshot of your statutory declaration when prompted in the application form.

Persons who intentionally makes a false statement in a statutory declaration are guilty of an offence under section 11 of the Statutory Declarations Act 1959.

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