Gympie businesses among Qld’s hardest hit in COVID fallout
NEW figures have revealed that Gympie is among the state’s worst hit regions economically during COVID-19, as more than 1300 businesses signed up for JobKeeper.
Exclusive Treasury data broke down the number of Queensland businesses that applied for the scheme by postcode and revealed that in April 1108 businesses in Gympie’s 4570 area applied.
248 businesses in surrounding suburbs also applied.
Gympie Chamber of Commerce president Tony Goodman said the scheme had given businesses, especially in retail, a major boost.
“I think with that kicking in, and combined with people being allowed to do non-essential shopping, traders have seen some real figures coming through,” he said.
Under the JobKeeper program, businesses impacted by COVID-19 are able to access a subsidy to continue paying employees, with the Government providing a fortnightly payment of $1500 per eligible employee until September 27, however, there has been speculation that payments could be cut earlier.
Bay MP Llew O’Brien said the scheme is keeping people in jobs and easing some of the economic impacts but it would continue to be reviewed.
“As the social and economic restrictions begin to lift and businesses re-open and people return to work, the need for the JobKeeper program will reduce,” he said.
“We are still more than three months away from the slated end of the JobKeeper program and I would expect the Government to review the situation as that time approaches.”
Mr Goodman said it would benefit the local economy to prolong the program, but said we could be “digging ourselves into a bigger hole” as more money has to be paid back.
He said there was still a risk to people and businesses if the program ended too early.
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“I do see obviously from a welfare point of view that if it is withdrawn too soon there could be people in dire straits, from a mental and emotional perspective as well.
“That’s what we’ve been hearing around so far, in some business particularly the tourism industry.
“Some people are saying some of the operators have even been almost suicidal, so there’s issues like this that are going around.”
He said as restrictions ease on intrastate travel and non-essential services, and these payments kick in, business owners seem to feel more “uplifted”.
“I still think in the back of their minds there is the uncertainty what’s going to happen in the future,” he said.
“I do see people concerned about if there’s a second wave that comes through, and then we have to lockdown the community again it could have major economic ramifications.”
Mr O’Brien said opening Queensland’s borders would have a large impact on the tourism industry, which many local businesses rely on.
“Tourism and hospitality related businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 and will take the longest to recover,” Mr O’Brien said.
“They want to be open to trade to provide the goods and services our community needs, but many can’t do that while the State Labor Government keeps the economy locked down and the borders closed,” he said.