The Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) yesterday opened its doors to support local businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic access the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) and the Small Business Grant (SBG), under the Second Policy Stimulus.
Applications close at the end of September 2021.
VCCI Business Adviser, Joanna Spencer states that this is to give businesses enough time to get their application in and they will be backdated to May as this is a monthly payment.
This time period also allows VCCI to move around the country and help businesses in other areas apply as well.
“Businesses will not lose out whether they apply now or in September. They will still be paid for the 8-month period,” she explains.
Businesses that have closed while waiting for the stimulus package to come through are eligible under certain circumstances.
“If a business has closed with no employees but has a valid business licence from 2020 or until April 2021, it is eligible for to apply for SBG.
If a business had staff but no longer has staff so is no longer paying the staff VNPF, then the WSS is not applicable to that business. You have to have current employees and be paying their VNPF to be eligible for the WSS,” Spencer advises.
Wage Subsidy Scheme
According to VCCI, the Ministry of Finance has budgeted VT600 million for the WSS. This is designed to support businesses that are VAT-registered and are distressed with staffing arrangements.
“In order to access the WSS, businesses have to prove their business has suffered a loss of more than 30% income year on year. When businesses put in their Vat returns as a monthly activity, it shows their turnover from 2019-2020.
If there is decrease in sales or income of over 30%, it means the business is distresses and can access the WSS.”
The WSS that 2021 will rollout contrasts with the 2020 stimulus in three major ways:
- In 2020, the stimulus was to aid employees acting as a top off to what the employees were earning. The 2021 WSS focuses more on reimbursing the employer 50% of the wage up to maximum of VT15,000 a month per employee. This will help employers keep employees and help employees stay employed.
- In the previous year, the stimulus was only open to tourism businesses but in this year’s rollout, all businesses meeting the criteria that VCCI has put out are able to access the WSS.
- The 2020 stimulus package lasted an extent of 5 months. However, the WSS of 2021 will last businesses 8 months.
Small Business Grant
Mrs Spencer states that the budget for the SBG is VT900 million. This is a higher budget than the WSS as it is likely that more businesses will be applying for the SBG. In 2020, a grant called the SME grant was paid to small businesses, a one-off payment of VT60,000 to each small business.
However, this SBG will be over the course of 8 months reimbursing the employer 50% of the wage up to maximum of VT15,000 a month per employee.
This is intended to put money back into the economy and back into the pockets of the people.
“Businesses should recognize that the Government is trying to offer assistance with what resources it has to keep people employed and maintain their livelihoods. Look positively to the future and keep staff on for as long as possible,” Spencer says.