COVID disaster payments to cease, leaving some asking how they’ll survive

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Dane Laboyrie is a businessman, but not in the way you might think.

He runs a creative business where he teaches students how to play the trumpet; and he’s a musician, who has toured with bona fide stars including Taylor Swift. He also performs at nightclubs, and weddings.

At least he used to.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the income his business brings in.

“My business is down 95 per cent, 100 per cent, 80 per cent, depending on the week,” he  said.

Mr Laboyrie, who lives in Glebe in Sydney’s inner city, was on a six-week tour of Australia and New Zealand with writer-performer Tim Minchin, as Sydney was going into its most recent lockdown. The tour had landed him in Brisbane, so he decided to stay there for a while.

“All my tutoring, which was the only part of my business that was left at this point, had moved on to Zoom,” he said.

“And so I decided to rent a very cheap camper van and … I started teaching from the back of the camper van.”

‘We want to work … but we need help’

Mr Laboyrie was able to secure a one-off NSW Business Recovery grant, and is currently on the COVID-19 JobSaver payment. But that payment, which he says has been keeping his business alive, will be wound back, and eventually tapered off.

The NSW and federal governments have a 50/50 cost-sharing arrangement for JobSaver, which is administered by NSW.

The federal government will cease funding the business support payment when the population is 80 per cent fully vaccinated.

The NSW government’s contribution will continue once the 80 per cent double vaccination target is reached, but will taper off to zero by November 30.

Mr Laboyrie says industries like his need targeted support, that takes into account a slower rate of recovery, as it takes time to plan for events. And until restrictions ease, people are not allowed to dance at nightclubs, and venues are prevented from being at full capacity.

“Just because you’re opening up, it doesn’t mean that things are going to snap right back,” he said.

“Everyone understands the payments can’t go on forever. We get that and we’re not asking for that.

“Everyone I know wants to get back to work. I want to get back to doing what I do and making a living but until we’re able to do that unrestricted, we need help.”

‘We’re not going to bounce back overnight’

Marie Hartley also wants targeted help for her industry — family-owned bus and coach companies — which she says needs specific industry-based assistance.

Based in Castle Hill in Sydney’s northwest, Ms Hartley is the owner and manager of Craig’s Mini Buses, which has been operating for about 20 years.

Ms Hartley, who is also on JobSaver payments, says her business, and others like it, have experienced a 100 per cent downturn since June.

“Not a wheel has been turned,” she said.

“We are unlike other industries. We can’t diversify, and we can’t resume trade just by opening doors.

“It takes many months of planning, bookings, and organising in order to resume our businesses.

“I know Australians love to travel and they’ll get out there. But I don’t think it’s just going to happen overnight.

“We’re not going to bounce back overnight. It’s just not going to happen for us.”

She says some operators are at their wits end.

“Some people just want to leave the buses on the Harbour Bridge,” she said.

Caught in a catch-22

Stephen Badger manages the Coogee Diggers Swim School in Sydney’s southeast.

While outdoor pools reopened this week, it’s a different story for indoor pools, which remain closed.

“There’s still massive confusion about exactly what’s going on with indoor pools,” Mr Badger said.

“But it appears as though the December 1 date is the one that the state government at this point in time is sticking to, but all the peak bodies are now lobbying them for a change in that.”

Mr Badger is on leave without pay and is on the COVID-19 disaster payment for individuals.

When 70 per cent of people over 16 are fully vaccinated, individuals receiving that payment will have to re-apply for it each week. Once the vaccination number reaches 80 per cent, the payments will taper off, until they reach zero.

Mr Badger said even on the payment, it was tough to make ends meet.

“I understand that the government can’t keep these schemes going on indefinitely, but it’s a government regulation that is actually stopping me from going back to work,” he said.

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(Original ABC Article)