COVID-19 Update

This is a very challenging time for our community and our nation, as we confront the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
 
The information and advice have been changing rapidly, so I want to cut through the confusion and give you the essential information you need during this evolving situation.

It is important that you have access to the most up-to-date and accurate medical advice, as well as information about the economic stimulus packages that may assist you financially through this difficult time.
 
My staff and I are available to assist you if you need information or access to support services relating to the broader impact of COVID-19. You are welcome to call my office on 03 5243 1444, email Libby.Coker.MP@aph.gov.au, or reach me via FacebookInstagram or Twitter.
 
If you suspect you have the coronavirus disease, please call your GP or the Victorian Government’s dedicated hotline, open 24 hours, seven days a week on 1800 675 398. If you are mandatorily self-isolating and have no access to food and essentials, you can call this number to receive emergency relief support.
 
If you are seeking general information about the coronavirus, you can call the National Coronavirus Helpline, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 020 080.
 
Information on what businesses have closed in Victoria and throughout Australia during the recently expanded shutdown, is accessible through the Victorian Government and Australian Government websites.

The following information and links provide vital information on the current medical advice and also the financial support available for individuals and businesses from the federal and state governments.

If you think you may have the coronavirus you can use this online tool to answer questions about your symptoms and determine whether you need to get medical help or get tested. This tool from healthdirect is available online at any time.

Important health information
For information on the health aspects of COVID-19 please refer to the Commonwealth Department of Health website.

Advice for people most at risk
For information and advice for people most at risk, please see the pages relevant to older peoplepeople in aged care facilities and travelers.

Health and aged care sector advice
Please click here for up-to-date and authoritative information and advice on COVID-19 for the health and aged care sector.

Mental health support
Many members of our community are suffering and will need mental health support. You can find a list of mental health support services here.

Financial support for individuals and households
The following payments will be made to eligible members of the community:

  • Coronavirus Supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. This will be paid to both existing and new recipients of the eligible payment categories for the next six months from 27 April 2020.
  • $750 Economic Support Payment from 31 March 2020
  • Second Economic Support Payment from 13 July 2020
  • Crisis Payment for those who need to self-isolate due to COVID-19 and don’t have any leave entitlements, or for those who are in severe financial hardship and get an income support payment. This is a one-off payment equal to a week’s pay of your existing income support payment rate.

Please see the full list of eligibility categories and further details here and here.

If you don’t currently get an income support payment and you need help because you’ve lost your job or had your income reduced, please start your claim online. You should call 132 850 if you do not already have a Centrelink Customer Reference Number. If you have an existing CRN, you can lodge a claim through MyGov.

If you’re already getting a payment that is eligible for the Economic Support Payment or the Coronavirus Supplement, you do not need to do anything, you’ll get paid automatically.

Victorians seeking employment
Individuals who have lost their job can register with the Working for Victoria Fund and may be eligible to apply for different kinds of work. This is paid work which provides an opportunity to contribute to Victoria’s ability to manage this crisis and support the community.

There are likely to be many different types of jobs available, including cleaning and sanitation of buildings, food services, health care, manufacturing, logistics, customer service, waste management and agriculture.

Temporary early access to superannuation
The government is allowing individuals affected by the coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. More details on eligibility can be found here. If you fit the eligibility criteria, go to MyGov to apply.

Support from banks and financial institutions
Many banks have indicated that they will pause mortgage repayments for customers experiencing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus. We recommend contacting your bank or home loan provider to see what support may be available. Further announcements about relief for mortgage holders and renters are expected in the coming days.

Assistance from the ATO
If you’ve been impacted by COVID-19 and need assistance from the Australian Taxation Office, you can reach their emergency assistance line on 1800 806 218.

Temporary reduction in superannuation minimum drawdown requirements
The government is temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions and similar products by 50 per cent for the 2019-20 income years.

Changes to social security deeming rates
As of 1 May 2020, the upper deeming rate will be 2.25 per cent and the lower deeming rate will be 0.25 per cent.

For more detail on support for retirees, please refer to this

fact sheet from Treasury. If you need further information on the stimulus package for individuals, please click here.

  • Up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium-sized businesses and not-for-profits that employ people and that have an aggregated annual turnover under $50 million.
  • An increase of the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company and the time companies have to respond to statutory demands they receive.
  • An increase in the instant asset write-off (IAWO) threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 with access to include all businesses with an aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million until 30 June 2020.
  • Support for businesses to retain their apprentices and trainees: eligible employers can apply for wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage paid during the 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020.
  • The Victorian government has set up a $500 million fund to support the hardest hit sectors such as hospitality, tourism, accommodation, retail and the arts. Businesses can register online for more information.

A full breakdown of business support measures offered by the Commonwealth can be found on the Treasury website.

Supporting the flow of credit

  • Many viable small and medium sized businesses are facing significant challenges due to disrupted cash flow but they still have to pay rent, utilities and employee expenses. The Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme will provide a guarantee of 50 per cent to SME lenders for new unsecured loans to be used for working capital. Businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million will be eligible. The maximum total of loans will be $250,000 per borrower.
  • The Reserve Bank of Australia has announced that banks will have access to at least $90 billion in funding at a fixed interest rate of 0.25 per cent. This will reduce costs for banks, which in turn will reduce interest rates for borrowers.

Please refer to this fact sheet from Treasury outlining support measures for the flow of credit.

Temporary relief is available for businesses who are experiencing financial distress. Please refer to this fact sheet for more information.

If you need further information on assistance for businesses through the stimulus package, go here for information from the Federal Government. A breakdown of Victorian State Government support can be found here.

Business Victoria has established a hotline for businesses seeking further information and advice on 13 22 15. You can also call the Commonwealth’s business support line on 13 28 46 for advice on new federal government support that is available.

While there are some welcome measures, Labor has raised concerns that the Morrison Government’s response lacks urgency, leaves gaps in support and does not go far enough to protect small businesses and the jobs of their employees. Labor will continue to push for further immediate support for businesses to assist throughout this crisis.

All Australians abroad are now being urged to return home as soon as possible by commercial flights. If you have a family member or friend who is caught overseas and unable to return home, you can contact my office for assistance.
 
Full travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can be found at Smartraveller.
 
For more specific advice and information on what to do if a family member is overseas and having difficulty getting home, please refer to this page.
 
For urgent consular assistance please call the Emergency Centre (CEC) in Canberra on 1300 555 135 (within Australia), +61 2 421 269 080 (from overseas, except China), +61 2 6261 9225 (from China) or SMS to +61 421 269 080.

The Prime Minister has announced a ban on Australians travelling overseas. Exemptions will apply to citizens who normally live overseas, where travel is essential or in the national interest, and on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.

Food ReliefPhone Number
City of Greater Geelong - Meals on Wheels03 5274 4718
Surf Coast Shire - Meals on Wheels03 5261 0600
Golden Plains Shire - Meals on Wheels03 5220 7151
Borough of Queenscliffe - Meals on Wheels03 5258 0874
Geelong Food Relief Centre03 5278 5688
Portarlington Food Assistance1800 007 224
Health CarePhone Number
Commonwealth Coronavirus Health Information1800 020 080
Victorian Coronavirus Hotline1800 675 398
Health Direct1800 022 222
Home Doctor Service13 74 25
Lifeline13 11 14
Beyond Blue1300 224 636
Kids Helpline1800 551 800
Headspace Geelong03 5222 6690
Coronavirus InformationWebsite
Department of Health and Human Serviceshttps://dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus
Department of Healthhttps://health.gov.au/covid-19
City of Greater Geelonghttps://geelongaustralia.com.au/covid19
Surf Coast Shirehttp://bit.ly/COVID19SurfCoast
Golden Plains Shirehttps://goldenplains.vic.gov.au/coronavirus
Borough of Queenscliffehttps://queenscliffe.vic.gov.au/community/public-health/coronavirus
Colac Otway Shirehttps://bit.ly/COVID19ColacOtway

I will continue to provide you with updated information as it becomes available. Please stay safe and take care.

Best wishes,

Libby Coker MP
Federal Member for Corangamite

Government Must Act Urgently to Support Small Businesses and Workers affected by Coronavirus Travel Bans and cancellations

Corangamite MP Libby Coker has called on the Federal Government to urgently announce a package of support for small tourism operators, small businesses and workers affected by the coronavirus and in particular the travel ban which has prevented thousands of Chinese nationals holidaying in Australia.

“I’m receiving daily reports
about the dramatic drop in visitors and the obvious impact that is having on
businesses across Corangamite, but particularly the Bellarine, Surf Coast and
Otways regions. Clearly, the economic impact along one of Australia’s premier
tourist destinations, the Great Ocean Road, is becoming very serious. I call on
the Government to put together a similar package of relief to the bushfires for
affected businesses, workers and communities.”

“The Australian Tourism
Industry Council (ATIC) CEO Simon Westaway said earlier this week that it is
abundantly clear the overall cost of coronavirus to Australian tourism
enterprises and tourism reliant communities will exceed the level of financial
and operational impact caused by the devastating bushfires. I would therefore
urge the Federal Minister for Tourism Simon Birmingham and the Prime Minister
to listen sympathetically to these appeals for assistance.

“There are clearly
suggestions for support like deferral of small business tax which are on the
table. I will be liaising with our Shadow Ministers, including Senator Don
Farrell (Tourism) and Jim Chalmers (Treasurer) to see what other initiatives
might be taken.”

“However, many workers in
tourism and hospitality in affected areas like the Surf Coast and Otways
regions will be affected, as well as business operators. At this stage it is
hard to gauge how many have lost shifts or jobs, but what is missing in
proposals from ATIC is support for these workers – whether that is in the form
of immediate access to social security, one off payments  or some other
form of support. I would urge the Federal Government to not forget these
workers and families in their response.”

“While residents along the
Great Ocean Road often bemoan the impact of thousands of overseas visitors
along our coast, they know they are a real driver of our local economy. Travel
bans like we have seen brings home very sharply how important these visitors
are and how dependent many of our small businesses and our local economy have
become on them.

“While I understand that the
travel ban on visitors from China is necessary and based on medical advice, I
urge the Federal government to end it as soon as possible after it is safe to
do so. Every day and week that it continues is hurting businesses and jobs.
Travel bans like this, even when necessary, are likely also have an adverse
impact on visitor numbers in the longer term. So elements of any package will
need to continue for some time I suspect.”  

Ms Coker has written to the
Minister for Tourism and the Prime Minister to urge them to urgently develop a
package in consultation with the tourism sector.

Libby Coker will attend
the Seafood Festival dinner in Apollo Bay tonight and will launch the Festival
on Saturday morning.

“I know that the lobster and
fishing industry, including around the Otways, has been hard hit by coronavirus
from very early on and that has been on-going. While there has been some
support from State Governments around the country in allowing boat to public
sales, the rolling over of quotas and other initiatives, more can probably be
done from a federal perspective in promoting the industry and its amazing
produce domestically. That is why the Apollo Bay Seafood Festival is so timely
and important this weekend.”