Update: Changes in Regional Victoria including to Disaster Payments

The Victorian Government yesterday announced that the City of Ballarat are to enter lockdown, whilst lockdown restrictions will ease in Greater Shepparton. A press statement is attached.

City of Ballarat to enter lockdown

From 11:59pm last night, the City of Ballarat entered lockdown with the same restrictions as metropolitan Melbourne except that no curfew will be in place.

This lockdown includes restrictions on reasons to leave the home, the 5km travel radius, and closure of hospitality (except takeaway), gyms and entertainment facilities consistent with the current restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne.

Restrictions to ease in Greater Shepparton

From 11:59pm last night, restrictions in Shepparton eased to be in line with the rest of regional Victoria. Restrictions will be as detailed in our previous update regarding Directions for regional Victoria.

COVID Disaster payments

Services Australia has indicated that current disaster payments will cease for individuals who both live and work in regional Victoria, with the final period of the payment for regional Victoria being from 3 September to 9 September.

Payments will still be available for persons who live or work in areas subject to ‘restricted movement’ or ‘lockdowns’. For instance, if you live in regional Victoria but usually work in a lockdown area such as metropolitan Melbourne then you will continue to be eligible if you cannot attend your workplace. In the same manner, if you live in a lockdown area but usually work in regional Victoria but cannot attend that workplace you will continue to be eligible. Obviously the lockdown in the City of Ballarat will result in all workers effected by that lockdown continuing to be eligible.

This next period from 10 September 2021 is considered a new claim period, and all eligible persons must reapply for the payments. You must submit a new claim for the weeks commencing 10 September and 17 September by 7 October and 14 October, respectively. This includes all persons in metropolitan Melbourne who have been receiving disaster payments.

Obviously this leaves a big gap for businesses in regional Victoria that are subject to significant operational restrictions, and therefore will have staff losing hours, but the staff do not meet the relevant ‘test’ for the disaster payments. This is because the test requires a person to live or work or be affected by a ‘restricted movement order’. The definition of restricted movement is a period of restricted movement when people must stay at home and can only leave for approved reasons. This means that people in regional Victoria will not be eligible to reapply for these payments unless they are impacted by lockdown restrictions.

The Services Australia does contain information on very limited exceptions for persons who are not living or working in lockdown areas. As best we can understand, these exceptions are where a person may be subject to a restriction on movement (i.e. not permitted to leave their residence other than for specified reasons) due to being present at an exposure site, for instance, even if you live and work in an area that is not subject to a restricted movement order.  In that example you might not live or work in a lockdown area, but as a result of a public health order you have lost work as you are ordered to quarantine..

In a press statement on 8 September, the Premier stated that the Victorian Government will assess which sectors remain severely impacted by the settings before making further announcements on arrangements for the two-week period from 17 September. While this announcement was pertaining to business support, given the significant personal impacts that will be felt in regional Victoria there may be further consideration of any personal support payments as well – but this has not been confirmed.

We will continue to monitor changes to support available and will provide a further update when information is available.

Facilities with multiple offerings

Further to our previous advice regarding sporting clubs that have both sporting facilities and bistro/dining facilities, Business Victoria has released further information about when venues will be considered separate areas for the purposes of patron caps. This information applies not just to sporting facilities, but to any facility that has multiple distinct offerings

Business Victoria’s website provides as follows:

When locations or buildings contain multiple, distinct venues or premises, the restrictions relevant to each separate venue applies. For example, in an office building that contains cafes and shops, the hospitality restrictions apply to the café, and the retail restrictions apply to the shops. Similarly, where a gallery has a café accessible from its foyer, the relevant entertainment restrictions apply to the gallery spaces and the hospitality restrictions apply to the café.  

Each venue or premises is considered separate when calculating capacity limits. This means the total number of patrons permitted for a building containing multiple venues – such as the gallery example above – will be the sum of the capacity for each venue or premises.   

In buildings containing multiple venues with separate capacity limits, each venue must independently follow the relevant COVIDSafe Settings, including having their own QR codes. Each venue owner or manager is responsible for meeting the individual COVIDSafe requirements for that venue. This includes having a COVIDSafe Plan and complying with record keeping requirements using the free Victorian Government QR Code Service.  

Patrons should check-in everywhere, every time using the Service Victoria app, including when they move between each individual space or venue within a larger building or venue.  

Gaming machine areas are a notable exception to this –  according to the Directions, a gaming machine area within a food and drink facility is specifically included as part of the indoor area of that facility. This means that the gaming machine area on its own cannot be considered a separate facility to the rest of the food and drink facility.  

If you have any questions regarding operating multiple facilities please do not hesitate to contact our office.

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.