FAQ categories:

Questions about the program

I received my payment before additional funding was announced on 4 September. Will I receive more money?

An automatic top-up to the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund announced on 4 September 2021 provides an additional $6,000 to eligible small and medium businesses that have already received a grant through this program.

You do not need to apply or take any further action. An automatic top-up payment of $6,000 will be made to your nominated bank account.

Who is eligible for the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund?

The Victorian Government’s Small Business COVID Hardship Fund assists eligible small and medium businesses:

  • whose operations have been severely impacted by COVID‑19 restrictions that have been in place since 27 May 2021
  • that have experienced at least a 70% reduction in turnover as a result of the COVID‑19 restrictions
  • that are ineligible for other key COVID‑19 Victorian Government business grant programs that have been announced since 27 May 2021.

This includes businesses that are able to operate but COVID‑19 restrictions preclude them from generating revenue, for example:

  • my key customer was required to close (e.g. food and beverage manufacturers that supply closed venues)
  • the location or type of business meant that access to my customers was severely impacted
  • my customers cancelled bookings or orders.

How much are the grants?

Eligible businesses will receive $20,000 under the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund. The total grant amount increased from $14,000 to $20,000 on 4 September 2021. Businesses that have already received a grant through this program will receive an automatic top-up payment of $6,000 into their nominated bank account.

When does my business need to have lost revenue in order to be eligible?

Eligible businesses must demonstrate a reduction in turnover of at least 70% for a minimum consecutive two-week period between 27 May 2021 and 10 September 2021 (Impacted Period) as a direct consequence of COVID‑19 restrictions, comparable to a benchmark period in 2019.

Businesses must choose similar dates for the Benchmark Period and the Impacted Period unless there are exceptional reasons as to why a different time is chosen.

If applicants choose a starting date in 2019 that is more than 3 days earlier or later than the starting date in 2021, the application may require further information to substantiate the exceptional reasons.

Applicants may choose a longer consecutive period, however if a longer period for the Impacted Period is used, applicants must use the same length of time for the Benchmark Period.

Alternative arrangements are available for businesses who do not have a trading history in 2019.

Why does this program require a reduction in turnover of 70%?

The Small Business COVID Hardship Fund is intended to support those businesses that have been severely impacted by COVID‑19 restrictions and have not recently received support under other Victorian Government COVID‑19 business programs.

In particular, the program aims to provide support to businesses that have been permitted to operate (and are therefore ineligible for previous Victorian Government COVID support programs) but COVID‑19 restrictions preclude them from generating revenue, for example:

  • the key customer(s) was required to close (e.g. food and beverage manufacturers that supply closed venues)
  • the location or type of business meant that access to customers was severely impacted
  • customers cancelled bookings or orders.

How do I apply?

You can choose to apply for this program in one of three ways:

  1. A qualified agent can apply on your behalf and verify the 70% drop in business turnover as part of the application. The qualified agent needs to attest that they are authorised to apply on your behalf.
  2. You can apply directly as a business owner and have the application verified by a qualified agent using the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund – Letter from the Qualified Agent template (DOCX 51.23 KB)DOCX icon.
  3. Business owners who do not have access to a qualified agent can register their interest for the program. Applicants may receive an application form via email from the department. Applications received through this process may take up to 25 business days to process, due to the need for additional verification measures.

Questions about eligibility

Which businesses are eligible for the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund?

Eligible businesses must have experienced a reduction in turnover of at least 70% for a minimum consecutive two-week period since 27 May 2021 as a direct consequence of COVID‑19 restrictions, comparable to a benchmark period in 2019, and have not received funding through other Victorian Government COVID‑19 business support programs launched on or after 27 May 2021.

This includes businesses that are able to operate but COVID‑19 restrictions preclude them from generating revenue, for example:

  • my key customer was required to close (e.g. food and beverage manufacturers that supply closed venues)
  • the location or type of business meant that access to my customers was severely impacted
  • my customers cancelled bookings or orders.

Can I apply for the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund if I received a grant through another COVID‑19 business support program?

Businesses are not eligible to receive a Small Business COVID Hardship Fund grant if they have received support under any of the Victorian Government COVID‑19 support packages launched on or after 27 May 2021, including:

  • Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two
  • Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two Extension
  • Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021
  • Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021 – July Extension
  • Alpine Resorts Support Program
  • Victorian Events Support Package, comprising of:
    • Sustainable Events Business Program
    • Impacted Public Events Support Program
    • Independent Cinema Support Program
    • Live Performance Support Program (Presenters)
    • Live Performance Support Program (Suppliers)

This list may be updated at any time to reflect changes to COVID‑19 business support packages.

I’m awaiting the outcome of an application for another Victorian Government business support program. Can I apply for the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund?

If you are awaiting the outcome of another application to a key COVID‑19 Victorian Government business grant program, you may apply for a grant under this program but your existing application to another program will be considered first.

This may delay the outcome of an application to this program.

Am I eligible for the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund if I have received the Commonwealth Government COVID‑19 Disaster Payment?

The Victorian Government recognises that businesses may have received Commonwealth Government support to date. This does not affect your eligibility to apply for the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund.

However, before applying for this program, you should check the eligibility requirements of the Commonwealth Government’s COVID‑19 Disaster Payment as a successful application to the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund may impact access to financial support from the Commonwealth.

Why do I have to be registered for goods and services tax (GST) to receive this grant?

This program requires a business to be registered for GST because it shows the business was actively trading before 28 July 2021 and is a genuine operation, which the owner and their employees or contractors rely on for income.

We acknowledge that businesses not registered for GST have also been significantly impacted by COVID‑19 restrictions. These businesses should explore the support available through the Commonwealth Government.

This is consistent with previous COVID‑19 support programs, including the Business Support Fund rounds two and three, the Sole Trader Support Fund (which supported non-employing businesses, including sole traders) and the Business Costs Assistance Program.

A business must register for GST when it has a GST turnover (gross income minus GST) of $75,000 or more.

Not-for-profit entities with annual turnover between $75,000 and $150,000, which are not registered for GST and are registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission are eligible to apply.

More information on whether you need to register for GST is available on the Australian Taxation Office website.

My business has an annual 2019-20 turnover of less than $75,000, which means I’m not required to be registered for GST. Am I eligible for a grant under this program due to this exception?

No, you must be registered for GST as of 28 July 2021 and meet all the eligibility criteria to receive a grant under this program.

The only exceptions are:

  • not-for-profit entities with annual turnover between $75,000 and $150,000 that are not registered for GST but are registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission
  • businesses with annual 2019-20 turnover of $75,000 or more that are not required by relevant tax legislation to be registered for GST, such as NDIS providers and time-share accommodation businesses, and that provide a statutory declaration from a registered tax agent with their application.

Please consult a registered tax agent or the Australian Taxation Office if you need more information about whether your business falls under either of these categories.

I recently registered my business for GST. Will this affect my eligibility?

For the purposes of this program, you will need to ensure your GST registration was active on 28 July 2021. More information about this is available on the Australian Taxation Office website.

Questions about evidence and documentation

What evidence or records do I need to provide to prove my business has experienced a reduction in turnover?

Qualified Agent applications

Evidence of the reduction in turnover must be attested to by a qualified agent. If a qualified agent is not applying on your behalf, your application must include a signed copy of this Small Business COVID Hardship Fund – Letter from the Qualified Agent template (DOCX 51.23 KB)DOCX icon in PDF format, on the Qualified Agent's letterhead.

You may be asked to produce the following evidence:

  • a Business Activity Statement (i.e. month, quarter or annual statement)
  • total sales
  • invoices
  • financial statements
  • bank statements.

Non-agent applications

Applicants who do not have access to a qualified agent and who receive an application form via email from the department to apply will need to submit the following with their application:

  • a copy of the business activity statement (BAS) for the Q4 FY2020-21 reporting period and the Receipt ID number associated with this BAS as issued by the Australian Taxation Office
  • evidence of the reduction in turnover for both the Impacted and Benchmark Periods, and supporting documentation of one of these three types:
    • a sales report produced from an accounting software package, or
    • a point-of-sale report, or
    • business activity statement/s and associated Receipt ID number issued by the ATO.

Applicants will need to provide the same type of document for both the Impacted and the Benchmark Period, otherwise the application will be deemed ineligible.

What is a qualified agent?

A qualified agent is either a:

  • Qualified accountant who belongs to one of the following professional bodies at the declared membership classification:
    • CPA Australia (i.e. CPA and FCPA)
    • Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (i.e. CA, ACA and FCA)
    • Institute of Public Accountants (i.e. AIPA, MIPA and FIPA)

and complies with the body’s continuing professional education requirements; or

  • A registered BAS Agent who belongs to one of the following associations at the declared membership classification, including:
    • Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (FICB, MICB, AICB)
    • Australian Bookkeepers Association (Member)
    • Association of Accounting Technicians (Australia) Limited and complies with the body’s continuing professional education requirements.

and complies with the body’s continuing professional education requirements; or

  • A registered Tax Agent who belongs to one of the following professional bodies at the declared membership classification, including:
    • The Tax Institute
    • National Tax Agents Association
    • Tax Super Australia

and complies with the body’s continuing professional education requirements.

The qualified agent cannot be an employee or director of the applicant, or an associated entity of the applicant, or a director or employee of an associated entity of the applicant.

Where can I find a qualified agent to help me with my application?

To find a qualified agent that can support your application to the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund, please consult the websites of these professional bodies:

I don’t have a qualified agent. Can I apply myself?

Yes. Business owners (as listed on the Australian Business Register) who do not have access to a qualified agent can register their interest for the program.

Applicants may receive an application form via email from the department.

You will still need to provide the required evidence to demonstrate more than a 70% reduction in turnover.

Applications received directly from business owners who do not have a qualified agent may take up to 25 business days to process, due to the need for additional verification measures.

How do I calculate business turnover?

Turnover is measured as the GST turnover of the business.

GST turnover is the total business income (not profit) minus:

  • GST included in sales to customers
  • sales that are not for payment and are not taxable
  • sales not connected with the business
  • input-taxed sales
  • sales not connected with Australia.

For more detail refer to guidance available on the Australian Taxation Office website.

Which reporting method, for example cash or accrual, should I use when calculating business turnover?

Businesses should not alter their usual accounting method, whether it be cash or accrual, when calculating their reduction in turnover.

Applicant businesses should use the same method they would normally use to populate the “G1 Total sales” field in their business activity statements.

How do I calculate the reduction in business turnover?

To determine if your business has experienced a 70% reduction in turnover:

  1. Select a minimum consecutive two-week period (Impacted Period) since 27 May 2021 where your business turnover was most impacted by COVID‑19 restrictions.
  2. Select a minimum consecutive two-week trading period (Benchmark Period) in 2019, or an alternative period as outlined below, as a comparison point.
  3. 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

If the reduction in turnover (as calculated using this formula) is less than 70%, then your business is not eligible for this program.

Businesses must choose similar dates for the Benchmark Period and the Impacted Period unless there are exceptional reasons as to why a different time is chosen.

If applicants choose a starting date in 2019 that is more than 3 days earlier or later than the starting date in 2021, the application may require further information to substantiate the exceptional reasons.

If your business was not operational in 2019, you can compare to a two-week period between 1 February 2021 and 28 July 2021.

What happens if I only started my business in 2020 or my business was not operational for the full 2019-20 financial year?

To show your business experienced a reduction in turnover of 70% or more over a consecutive two-week period since 27 May 2021, you can compare to a minimum two-week period between 1 February 2021 and 28 July 2021.

What happens if my turnover for the benchmark period in 2019 was not representative of my usual turnover, for example due to a natural disaster?

The benchmark period should generally be the similar time of the year as the impacted period unless there are exceptional circumstances that affected your turnover, for example:

  • natural disasters
  • sickness, injury or leave of key personnel
  • acquisition, disposal, or restructure that changed the entity’s turnover
  • a business’ start-up phase​.

In these circumstances, you can demonstrate a reduction in turnover of 70% or more over a consecutive two-week period since 27 May 2021 by comparing to a minimum two-week period of normal trading activity between 1 February 2021 and 28 July 2021.

My business has changed hands since the 2019 Benchmark Period, how can I calculate my reduction in turnover?

Businesses that have experienced a change in ownership since the 2019 Benchmark Period can demonstrate a reduction in turnover of 70 per cent or more over a consecutive two-week period since 27 May 2021 by comparing to a minimum two-week period of normal trading activity under the current ownership.

I am a qualified agent. What documentation should I ask for from clients?

As a qualified agent, you are required to confirm that as a direct consequence of COVID‑19 restrictions in place since 27 May 2021, the applicant has experienced a reduction in turnover of at least 70% for a minimum consecutive two-week period (Impacted Period) comparable to a Benchmark Period in 2019 (or the alternative period).

The business is required to inform you that the financial information they have provided to calculate this reduction in turnover is consistent with normal business practice and has not been adjusted for the purpose of receiving a grant from the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund.

You are not required to conduct an audit or assurance engagement to verify the reliability, accuracy or completeness of the information the client has provided to you.

However, you should sense check the information and ensure the client has reasonable grounds and evidence to support their claim, and document the information provided to you.

You should also inform your clients of their obligation to keep complete and accurate documentation to support their eligibility and that they may be subject to an audit by the department.

Which identification documents should I submit with my application?

You must provide details of a current proof of identity document. This must be one of the following:

  • driver licence or learner permit issued in any Australian jurisdiction
  • Australian Passport
  • Medicare Card
  • foreign passport for those issued with an Australian Visa.

I’ve received notification that my identification check has returned an invalid result or could not be validated. How do I update my proof of identity?

Update your contact details by following the steps outlined in our Proof of Identity Verification User Guide.

Download a copy of these instructions: Updating Proof of Identity Details in Grant Hub forms (PDF 633.93 KB)PDF icon

How do I provide evidence that my business is registered for WorkCover Insurance with WorkSafe Victoria?

If you are an employing business, you will need to include your unique WorkCover Employer Number (WEN) on your application.

Your WEN can be found on the top right-hand corner of your 2020-21 invoice from WorkSafe Victoria. Your WEN is also printed on your WorkSafe Certificate of Currency. Note you do not need to provide your certificate of currency when applying for this grant.

If you have only recently applied to be registered with WorkSafe and do not have a WEN, please provide the WorkSafe Application Reference Number (WRN) instead.

Non-employing businesses do not need to provide a WEN on their application.

I’ve recently applied for a WorkCover Employer Number (WEN) but haven’t received it. What can I provide in my application as evidence that I’m registered with WorkSafe Victoria?

If you have only recently applied to be registered with WorkSafe and do not have a WEN, please provide the WorkSafe Application Reference Number (WRN) instead.

A WRN is issued in the format of NR-XXXXXX-XXXXXX when you submit an online application for WorkCover insurance. It appears in printable form once the application is submitted. You will also receive an email with the number.

When your WEN is issued, your information will be updated in our systems automatically and we will progress your application. You do not need to take any action.

Please note that applications with a WRN may take longer to process because the WorkCover registration process must be complete before we can start assessing your application.

What does the attestation mean regarding worker support? What do I have to do?

Employing businesses applying for the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund must:

  • be registered with WorkSafe Victoria
  • attest that their business is supporting:
    • its workers to access any paid leave entitlements
    • its workers to work from home during COVID‑19 Restrictions, where possible
    • its casual workers, where possible.

We know these are difficult times for many businesses and workers. The attestation aims to confirm that employing businesses are making reasonable efforts to support their workers.

Businesses who are making reasonable efforts to support their workers should apply. Grants must be used to assist the business, including by meeting business costs such as wages.

Questions about the application process

How are applications assessed?

Funding will be allocated through a grant application process.

Each application will be carefully considered and assessed against the eligibility criteria.

Only final applications that are lodged with the department will be considered and assessed. Applications in draft stage will not be considered.

What is the status of my application?

The status of your application will appear in the Business Victoria Grants Portal as one of the following:

  • Draft – you have started an application
  • Submitted – you have accepted the terms and conditions and submitted
  • Under assessment – your application has been received and is being assessed by the Business Victoria team
  • Successful – your application was successful
  • Unsuccessful – your application was unsuccessful.

From the time you submit your application, the department will endeavour to provide you with notifications on the progress of your application.

Please note, we cannot contact you while your application remains in ‘draft’ as you haven’t yet given permission for the department to use your contact details.

Questions about grant payments

When will I receive the grant?

We endeavour to process your application and notify you of a successful outcome within 15 business days of receiving a completed application.

Applications received directly from business owners who do not have a qualified agent may take up to 25 business days to process, due to the need for additional verification measures.

For the purposes of this program, business days are Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays.

If a qualified agent applied on your behalf, they will be notified of the outcome of your application. If you submitted the application yourself, you will be notified directly.

It may take longer to notify you of an outcome if your application:

  • does not meet all the eligibility criteria
  • does not have correct evidence or documentation
  • requires you to make changes
  • is a duplicate application for the same business
  • has incorrect information, such as ABN or bank details (for successful applicants)
  • contains incorrect contact details for the qualified agent, or if this qualified representative fails to endorse your business’ reduction in turnover
  • does not include current or accurate information registered with relevant regulators or partner agencies, such as the State Revenue Office, Australian Business Register or WorkSafe Victoria.

Once we advise you of your successful application, your grant will be paid into your nominated bank account. Depending on your bank, it may take up to five business days for the payment to reach your account.

How will the grant be paid to my business?

Grants to successful applicants will be paid into the bank account nominated on the application form. Depending on your bank, it may take up to five business days for the payment to reach your account.

How can I use the funds?

Grant funds must be used to assist the business, for example to:

  • meet business costs, including utilities, wages or rent
  • seek financial, legal or other advice to support business continuity planning
  • develop the business through marketing and communications activities
  • any other supporting activities related to the operation of the business.

Can I apply for more than $20,000 if my business lost more than $20,000?

No, the grant is capped at $20,000 per eligible business.