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Victorian businesses hit by the two-week construction industry shutdown will receive nearly $200 million in financial aid as the industry prepares to reopen.
Victoria recorded 1,488 new cases of coronavirus in the 24 hours to Saturday morning, and two men in their 60s from Hume and the Mornington Peninsula have died.
Victorian treasurer, Tim Pallas, has announced $196.6 million in cash grants for 70,000 Melbourne, Geelong and Mitchell businesses affected by the construction freeze from September 21 to October 4.
Eligible sole proprietors receive a one-time payment of $2,000, increasing to $2,800 for businesses with annual payrolls of up to $650,000, $5,600 for payrolls between $650,000 and $3 million, and $8,400 for $3 million to $10 million.
The sector has been closed for two weeks amid concerns about rising coronavirus cases, transmission and poor compliance on construction sites, but will reopen on Tuesday for workers who have been vaccinated with at least one dose.
Pallas was critical of the federal government when he made the announcement, saying “these grants would have doubled if the commonwealth had not refused to contribute to the Victorian construction industry”.
“It is incomprehensible or understandable why this industry, which will of course struggle as a result of the challenges they have faced in recent weeks, is not getting the support they would otherwise expect,” he said.
He said NSW had received more than double the amount of Victoria’s federal disaster payments, citing data released this week showing NSW received $6.15 billion, compared to $2.40 billion for Victoria.
“With every step during this pandemic, NSW has been awarded a free kick by the Sydney Prime Minister,” Pallas said.
There are currently 429 people in Victorian hospitals with Covid-19, up from 34 on Friday, with 97 people in the ICU and 54 needing a ventilator.
In the 24 hours through Saturday, more than 70,000 Victorians were tested for the virus and 36,878 vaccinations were administered.
There were 71 new cases reported in regional Victoria as Shepparton and Moorabool start their first day under a week-long lockdown to contain growing cases in those areas.
Shepparton’s active cases grew 10 to 34 on Saturday, while Moorabool registered two more cases, bringing the total to 32.
All Victorian authorized workers must have their first vaccine dose by October 15 and a second by November 26 to continue working on site, as part of a new government mandate.
The requirement will affect store staff, personal trainers, MPs, journalists, religious leaders, judges, police, lawyers, actors and professional athletes.
The government plans to consult with certain industries, such as energy, waste management and religious leaders, but Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said on Friday there are few exceptions.
The October 15 deadline will not replace Victoria’s separate timetables for vaccine mandates for aged care, health care, freight, construction and education.
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