Pain grows for Katherine business owners as the NT COVID-19 outbreak rises to more than 50 cases

When Rebecca Beaumont opened the doors to her new store in Katherine earlier this month, the store looked bright.

“It was a really good mood,” she said of the first four days she was able to swap.

Following the discovery of a single case of COVID-19 in the city, the situation has only gotten worse.

The eruption has grown to 51 people, and the shutdown, which was originally supposed to last only three days, has turned into another shutdown that could continue until at least December 4th.

“By [then], we’re hitting the 19-day lockdown – it’s actually three weeks, “Mrs Beaumont said.

“It’s a long time for a small town like this to try to figure out how to get through this.”

The prime minister has warned that the restrictions could last even longer after a COVID-positive woman escaped the hard shutdown in nearby Binjari and spent several hours in Katherine yesterday while she was infected.

Like many other Katherine businesses that are categorized as non-significant, she has had to continue paying rent and other bills without an income stream.

Some companies affected by the shutdown may have access to an immediate $ 1,000 “lockdown payment” from the Northern Territory government

“It’s better than nothing, but realistically it’s not going to make that much of a difference because it’s not even a week’s rent for many places,” Mrs Beaumont said.

An empty parking lot outside Woolworths supermarket in Katherine.
Katherine’s only large supermarket has had to close because many of its team members were ordered to isolate themselves.(ABC News: Jesse Thompson)

During this month’s shutdowns, the Northern Territory government has issued more than 170 payments to businesses, of which $ 150,000 have already been disbursed so far.

However, Joey Buckerfield, who owns Big Rivers Weed Management, said he had not been able to access the lockdown payment because he did not meet the scheme’s eligibility criteria.

The payment is only available to companies with a turnover of more than $ 75,000 per year, something he has not been able to prove because he has only been in operation for seven months.

“They could not exercise discretion because they have to maintain the integrity of the program and manage it in accordance with the terms and conditions, which is fine,” he said.

“But I would like to see the program expanded to include small businesses that have not traded for more than 12 months because it is a critical period for us.”

A group of people wearing full PPE outside a COVID test site in Katherine.
Mass testing is underway in Katherine as positive wastewater results continue in the city.(ABC Nes: Michael Franchi)

The NT Chamber of Commerce said it had been in discussions with the government of the territory to increase the level of financial support for what was offered in earlier stages of the pandemic.

“We are not in a position to say exactly what the amount would be,” said Chamber of Deputies CEO Greg Ireland.

“But it would really be meant to be based on the size of the company and the cost base it works with.”

Small business minister Paul Kirby said the government would continue to talk to companies “to determine the best ways to support them”.

Commonwealth also offers separate COVID-19 disaster payments worth up to $ 750 per week for people who have lost more than 20 hours of work.

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