All about sole

Kate Withers

Members of the Latrobe Valley business community have spoken of concerns they are being left out in the cold by the state government’s Business Support Fund.

To be eligible for funding, businesses must meet a raft of criteria including; be registered with WorkSafe, hold an ABN, participate in the JobKeeper Payment Scheme and be registered for GST.

Sole traders and partnership enterprises must also employ people other than themselves to be eligible for funding, which Member for Morwell Russell Northe said was crippling “mum and dad” operations.

“I think it is grossly unfair that these sole traders and partnership enterprises have been excluded from the (state) government’s Business Support Fund,” Mr Northe told The Express.

“In many instances these are families that work extremely hard for their livelihoods and contribute enormously to the local community both financially and socially.

“In addition to this many of these sole traders and partnership enterprises employ multiple people.

“It seems completely unreasonable to me that these business owners are not eligible to receive funding at a time when they need it most.”

Black Fox Tattoo owner Sue Gillespie is a sole trader and employs four workers with another soon to join, but has been denied assistance under the Business Support Fund because she does not have WorkCover.

But the state government website states that sole traders do not need to register for WorkCover.

“WorkCover is the criteria that has left us out of that funding, and as a sole trader and employer of subcontractors, I don’t need to have WorkCover,” Ms Gillespie said.

“All my employees are on JobKeeper, and I’m very appreciative of that, but I’m a fair person and if a business two doors up is entitled to funding then I should be too.

“I’m a fair person, but my business has been closed for 15 weeks this year it’s really hard to not be open for so long.”

The Henry Street, Traralgon studio opened in March last year and Ms Gillespie said new business owners were already faced with a number of challenges.

“I’m not a young person, I’ve been in business once before and I understand the first 12 months you’re not going to make a profit,” she said.

“In that first 12 months you’re setting up the shop, which is a substantial outlay, and you’re recovering that in the first 12 months.

“In the second 12 I plan to make improvements to the business, but with COVID happening so early this year, those funds that I had planned to use for improvements are obviously not happening.”

Ms Gillespie has also written to treasurer Tim Pallas to voice her concerns.

“Tim Pallas said that we didn’t contribute to state tax, and that really annoyed me,” she said.

“I have an ABN, I’m registered for GST and payroll tax … I just don’t understand.”