Last updated 31 March 2020

Information for Businesses

This page contains information and resources for Bluestone customers who are self-employed or business owners, about the support options available if their finances have been impacted by COVID-19.

Accessing Financial Relief

Amid increasingly strict lockdown measures, growing consumer unease, and considerable volatility in financial markets around the world, many businesses have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thankfully, Australian federal, state and territory governments have already announced extraordinary measures to support businesses and individuals, many of which are summarised on this page.

Australian Government Measures

As of 31 March, the Australian Government has announced a number of economic measures to respond to the current outbreak, totalling more than $319 billion in stimulus and support.

Additional measures to address specific vulnerable sectors continue to be announced regularly, but thus far, businesses have gained access to a wide range of initiatives, which include:

Small and medium-sized businesses, not-for-profits and charities that employ staff will be eligible for up to $100,000 in cash flow support payments. Your aggregated annual turnover in the last financial year must have been under $50 million to receive this support. The total support for each business is stretched over a number of payments, and subject to a number of eligibility criteria, but payments will be applied automatically by the ATO based on activity statement lodgements.

You can find more information about eligibility and timings in this fact sheet by the Treasury.

Small businesses with apprentices or trainees can apply for up to $7000 of quarterly wage subsidies between 1 January and 30 September, to a total of $21,000, or 50% of wages. Your apprentice or trainee must have been in training on 1 March 2020 to qualify, even if they were working for a different company at the time. You can register for the scheme from early April, and final claims for payments must be lodged by 31 December 2020.

For more information on how to apply, contact an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) provider.

This payment consists of a $1500 per fortnight wage subsidy for sole traders or employees of businesses that have seen a significant drop in annual turnover as a result of the pandemic. If your annual turnover has reduced by more than 30% or more than 50% (for businesses with annual turnover of below or above $1 billion respectively), your employees may be eligible for up to 6 months of payments. Payments are made directly to eligible businesses, and must be passed on to your employees in full, even if their usual wage is lower. Your employees are entitled to this payment even if they have been stood down, as long as they remain on your books. Applications for JobKeeper Payments are not yet open, but you can register your interest via this link.

For more information on the JobKeeper Payment, have a look at this fact sheet from the Treasury.

To lessen the threat of potential action taken against businesses that find themselves in financial distress during this time, the government has temporarily increased the thresholds at which creditors can issue statutory demands or initiate bankruptcy proceedings. The time periods during which you can respond to bankruptcy notices and receive protection after declaring intent to present a debtor’s petition have also been increased. Finally, individual directors have been relieved from personal liability from trading while insolvent, and the ATO has been authorised to tailor individual solutions for struggling businesses, including deferred or reduced payments and withholding enforcement actions.

You don't need to take any action to be eligible for this support, but contact the ATO if you are interested in a customised solution for your business.

Until 30 June 2020, businesses with an aggregated turnover of up to $500 million can now take advantage of up to $150,000 in instant asset write-offs. Businesses of the same size also have access to a time-limited 15-month investment incentive, by which they can claim a deduction of 50% of the cost of eligible assets on installation. These benefits apply for new and second-hand assets first used or installed for use between 12 March and 30 June.

You can find more information in this fact sheet by the Treasury.

Links

The full range of economic measures continues to grow and evolve. You can find the latest information via the links below.

Coronavirus information and support for business - An up-to-date overview of the new government support for small businesses, including financial assistance, eligibility and timings.

Treasury Support for Businesses - Information from the Treasury outlining the ways that the Australian Government is supporting businesses to manage cash flow challenges, retain employees and financial distress.

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) summary of support - ASBFEO has a great summary of all available stimulus measures as well as an updated list of social distancing directives impacting businesses. They are also operating a COVID-19 helpline at 13 28 46, which is available Monday - Sunday between 7am and 11pm.

State and Territory Support Packages

In addition to support from the federal government, the states and territories have each announced a number of additional economic support measures:

How Bluestone Can Help

If you are experiencing financial difficulty, there are a number of ways we can help.

Accessing Redraw Facilities

If you usually repay more than the minimum repayment amount of your home loan, you may have funds built up in your redraw facility. You can use these funds to cover future repayments without impacting your interest rate or future repayment obligations.

Hardship Arrangements

A financial hardship arrangement is a temporary agreement between you and Bluestone in case you can no longer afford to repay your home loan or other essentials, like groceries and utilities. There are many reasons you may qualify for financial hardship, for example:

Your business has seen a significant drop in revenue or has been ordered to shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak

A tenant in your investment property can no longer afford to pay their rent, and you are unable to cover repayments without falling into hardship

You or a family member become ill and can no longer work due to hospitalisation or care obligations

Bluestone has a long history of supporting customers experiencing financial hardship, and we have a range of options to support customers impacted by COVID-19. Some of these options may include:

Payment arrangements, whereby we can spread upcoming repayments over future months to cover a short term cash flow issue

Partial payments, whereby you temporarily pay a lower amount on your home loan

Repayment holiday, whereby we will suspend your repayments for a period of time

Don’t worry, a hardship arrangement with Bluestone will not impact your credit score.

Contact us

CONTACTING US

A Bluestone Hardship team member will be able to discuss the above options and your personal situation with you, and make an assessment based on information you have provided. Once a hardship arrangement is in place, we may conduct reviews during the assistance period.

We understand that financial hardship can be distressing for our customers, and want to assure you that we are here to assist you, free of judgement. If you are experiencing difficulty, we encourage you to reach out as soon as you can. The sooner you speak to us, the sooner we can help - and the more options may be available to you.

However, please note that our team is currently experiencing a very high volume of enquiries. If you are currently not directly impacted, we ask that you hold off on contacting us so we can better assist our customers in immediate need.

If you would like to discuss the options available to you, please press the button below to get in touch.

Protecting Your Business

On March 16, McKinsey & Company released a timely, insightful report about the COVID-19 evolution and implications for businesses. Bluestone recommends reading this report which we believe does a great job framing current scenarios, economic impact and, most importantly, implications for businesses and how companies should respond to this pandemic.

McKinsey recommends several actions businesses can implement now — Bluestone suggests you consider these steps for your business.

How to Stay Safe Online

Spread of Misinformation and Fake News

Amid rapidly changing situations and continued lack of clear scientific data about the virus,  fake news, conspiracy theories, rumours and misinformation have become very common - particularly on social media and WhatsApp.

Trusting inaccurate stories online can have serious consequences. It may exacerbate political, racial, and cultural divides. It can also risk your health and heighten your risk of infection, if you follow health advice that is ineffective or even dangerous.

The best way to protect yourself from inaccurate information and news stories is to only rely on official updates from trusted sources, such as Australian and international health bodies, and government sources.

Below are a number of resources that may help you:

WHO coronavirus mythbusters - Use this list of mythbusters about COVID-19 by WHO to prevent relying on protection measures that are proven to be ineffective.

How to read the news like a scientist - An article by the World Economic Forum with tips on how to assess the information you come across for accuracy and reliability

 

Scams

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has reported a significant rise in scams related to COVID-19. These scams include phishing emails, text messages and phone calls impersonating legitimate businesses and government bodies. There is also a rise of fake businesses claiming to sell products that can cure, treat, or prevent COVID-19.

If you believe you have been the victim of a phishing attack related to Bluestone, or you believe your Bluestone loan account may have been compromised, please contact us as soon as possible by calling 13BLUE(2583) or emailing customerservice@bluestone.com.au.

For more information about current scams, and tips on how to protect yourself, visit the links below:

ScamWatch COVID-19 Alert - Information by the ACCC about current scams relating to the outbreak.

Stay Smart Online - Information and resources from the Australian government about protecting yourself online.

MoneySmart Banking and Credit Scams - Information from ASIC's MoneySmart website about how to protect yourself from banking and credit scams.

The links to third-party websites contained on the Bluestone website are not operated or controlled by Bluestone.  They are provided in good faith and Bluestone does not give any warranty or take any responsibility for any aspect of those third party websites, including without limitation, the content of those third-party websites.