MORE than 40 business owners from Tamworth and Gunnedah grappling with the state-wide COVID-19 lockdown joined an online information forum on Friday to have their concerns addressed.
Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope told businesses the most important thing they could do was "not to self assess" and "reach out for assistance".
NSW Small Business Commissioner Chris Lamont, Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson and Service NSW Regional Engagement Manager Antony D'Cruz were also in attendance.
Tamworth Business Chamber president Stephanie Cameron told the forum that even after only four weeks, lockdown is hitting local business hard.
"Everyone I speak to is having a really tough time," she said.
"The biggest feedback I've received is that there are big delays in grant approval, so I was really pleased to see it announced that 500 new government staff had been appointed to help speed up that approval process."
She said businesses are reporting to the chamber that they're up to 95 per cent down on their income.
"My heart goes out to them and I hope for their sake they can get through this period as easily as can be," she said.
"The biggest thing people are talking about around town is when are we going to open again, what's that going to look like and with the small business grants, can they please be processed quicker."
Gunnedah Chamber of Commerce president Juliana McArthur agreed businesses need to open up as soon as possible and urged the state government to provide some clarity around when a vaccine passport will be made available.
She said she hoped it could be implemented before AgQuip which is due to take place in Gunnedah on November 16, 17 and 18.
"Gunnedah is a place which is going places, if we can have some clarity to assist our businesses continue, be able to bring in employees and address the housing shortage which I know lots of other areas are experiencing - we can continue to do great things for the NSW economy," she said.
While Mr Tudehope said as he wasn't on the NSW government's crisis committee, and he did not have an insight into when lockdown would end for regional NSW, the deputy premier John Barilaro was "fighting for regional NSW to come out of lockdown sooner".
"In regards to AgQuip, I think the sooner we get out the better so those plans can be put in place," he said.
"There is significant advocacy going on in behalf of regional areas. There are lots of local government areas which have no cases, we're very concerned however- in terms of the health impact - about seeding issues and people coming to the area."
Mr Anderson said from the advice he has received, he was hopeful Tamworth and Gunnedah would be released from lockdown on September 10 "if we can continue along the path we are".
In terms of financial assistance, NSW Small Business Commissioner Chris Lamont said the NSW Small Business Commissioner website is a great source of information that provides summaries of support material.
"One of the biggest issues we hear is there are 25 plus programs available at the moment, how do I know the right one for me. So we have put a two-pager together that provides the must know facts and figures around the eligibility and the criteria for the grants," he said.
"Unfortunately, not a lot of businesses are accessing assistance available to them, so please take the time to study the range of support and packages available to them."
Businesses can call Service NSW 13 77 88 or the Small Business Commissioner on 1300 795 534 who can talk them through assistance available.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
- Bookmark northerndailyleader.com.au
- Make sure you are signed up for our breaking and regular headlines newsletters
- Follow us on Twitter
- Follow us on Instagram
- Follow us on Google News