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Coronavirus in the Australian Capital Territory: Financial help and advice

Up-to-date information on ACT stimulus packages, travel restrictions, shutdowns and more. 

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warningWe’re working hard to provide the latest information on government announcements, stimulus packages and support for Australians across the country. However, the situation is developing constantly, so always check your local state’s government website for more details.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, states and territories are announcing large stimulus packages to help soften the blow of the struggling economy.

This page is a guide to the ACT package and what it will mean for residents and businesses. We'll be keeping it updated as new information is released so you can stay informed.

Overview of the ACT state stimulus package

The chief minister of the ACT, Andrew Barr announced a $137 million package to help keep the local economy afloat. The package announced by the ACT government is in addition to a national stimulus package announced over previous weeks by the Australian federal government. This is a summary of the first ACT stimulus package and what residents and business owners can expect:

Community initiatives include:

  • $500,000 in arts grant funding will be brought forward to keep the arts and entertainment industry afloat.
  • A $20 million fund for simple infrastructure works on public buildings.
  • A $7 million package to assist non-government organisations to meet increased demand for social services.
  • Public sector staff in events or entertainment will be redeployed to maintenance works.
  • Additional funding for Lifeline, the crisis support network.

Business owners can expect:

  • A credit of $2,622 for their commercial rates bills.
  • A one-off $750 rebate to small businesses which will be reflected through their next electricity bill.
  • Businesses that pay up to $10 million in wages will be able to defer payroll tax for 12 months. Other affected industries will receive a one-off six-month waiver on payroll tax.
  • Taxi and rideshare fees will be waived along with food and liquor licence fees.
  • Funding for clubs to retain casual staff.

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Households in the ACT will receive:

  • $150 rates rebate for every household.
  • $200 rebate to households receiving the utilities concession will be made through electricity bills.
  • Vehicle registration, public transport ticketing and parking fees to be frozen at current levels.
  • The fire and emergency services levy will be frozen in 2020/21 at the current level.

While these measures are being taken to help soften the blow of the impacts of coronavirus, it is expected that there will be significant financial loss over the coming months. If you are experiencing financial hardship you can find many helpful guides on what steps you should take next.

Coronavirus: Financial help and advice for Australians

Current advice on ACT restrictions, school closures and travel restrictions

On 16 March 2020, the ACT government declared a state of emergency under the Public Health Act 1997. The declaration gave territory leaders extra powers to contain the spread of COVID-19 with the ACT including implementing strict restrictions on businesses and activities. During a state of emergency, those who do not comply with containment measures could face fines of up to $9,000.

Business closures and restrictions

Along with national guidelines, the ACT will enact a territory-wide closure of all non-essential businesses and activities.

The following will be closed from midday 23 March 2020:

  • Pubs, registered and licensed clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues) and hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and nightclubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship or funeral homes (with some exceptions)

From 26 March, these restrictions will extend to the following:

  • All food courts (except for takeaway)
  • Auction houses, real estate auctions and open houses
  • Salon services that include beauty, nail, tanning, waxing and tattoo salons
  • Spa and massage parlours, excluding health-related services such as physiotherapy
  • Amusement parks, arcades and play centres (indoor and outdoor)
  • Galleries, national institutions, historic sites and museums
  • Health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre and spin facilities, saunas, bathhouses, wellness centres and swimming pools
  • Community facilities such as community halls, libraries and youth centres, RSLs and PCYCs
  • Gaming and gambling venues

School closures

The ACT government announced that from 25 March 2020, schools will be closed to almost all students. Despite the federal government insisting schools remain open, ACT schools will be considered "pupil free" until holidays begin.

School campuses will be closed to students, but teachers will be on campuses preparing for distance learning to begin after the end of school holidays.

Travel restrictions

So far the ACT has not closed its borders but the territory government is echoing calls by the PM to restrict all non-essential travel. Currently, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have locked down borders further adding restrictions to travel in Australia.

On 27 March 2020, the Australian prime minister announced that all travellers who arrive in Australia from overseas will be required to fill in and sign an Isolation Declaration Card. This enforces quarantine measures for those arrivals and those found to have not complied will face heavy penalties. Further to these changes the PM announced that from 29 March, all overseas travellers will be quarantined to hotels for 14 days in the city that they arrive in.

Public transport services

So far bus and light rail services are continuing. However, the ACT government is urging the public to only use them if absolutely necessary. It is important to note that from 24 March the following changes have been enacted:

  • No cash. Drivers will no longer be accepting cash on buses in the territory. This is to avoid close interactions with the driver. Please use MyWay or pre-purchased tickets from ticket vending machines.
  • Use of rear doors. Customers are to enter and exit the bus via the rear doors at all stops. This does not apply to those requiring low door assistance.
  • Closure of front seats. The front seats of the bus will temporarily be closed off, providing more space between our drivers and passengers.

Where to get help in the ACT

It's important to know where to find help in times of uncertainty. While social distancing measures and restrictions have made some services difficult to access, there are ways of finding support when you need it.

If you feel unwell

The ACT is advising that if you develop symptoms within 14 days of overseas travel, following contact with someone who has COVID-19 or if you're a healthcare worker with direct patient contact (even if you have not recently travelled or had contact with someone who has COVID-19), you should contact your GP or call HealthDirect's dedicated coronavirus hotline on 1800 022 222.

If you need to visit a clinic make sure to properly prepare:

  • Going to your GP. If you're going to see your GP, make sure to call ahead so that they can let you know if they have the facilities to treat you.
  • The Weston Creek Walk-in Centre. Located at 24 Parkinson St, Weston. This clinic has extended hours (7:30am to 10:00pm) and it asks patients to wear masks and sanitise hands on arrival.
  • The Drive Through Respiratory Assessment Clinic. Located at the Exhibition Park in Canberra and open from 9:30am to 6:00pm. You'll need to get there by car or another vehicle as you can't get access by foot or public transport.

For more information on getting tested, visit the ACT Health department webpage

If you begin to feel anxious or depressed

If you're experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, try reaching out to Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. You can speak with trained mental health professionals over the phone or through the online forum. Its website also contains excellent information and tools for maintaining good mental health.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or severe emotional distress, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. It is Australia's national 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention network and can provide assistance if you are experiencing a mental health crisis.

In an emergency

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 000 to get help from emergency services as soon as possible.

Picture: GettyImages

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