NSW residents looking forward to receiving $100 to spend at local businesses will have to wait a little longer, as a spike in COVID-19 cases disrupts the rollout of the voucher program.
But the delay means businesses in Sydney’s beleaguered northern beaches will be among the first to benefit, as the area is added to a list of trial sites for the Dine & Discover program.
The timeline for the scheme’s rollout will be reviewed “in light of recent events and health advice”, NSW Minister for Customer Service, Victor Dominello, told AAP.
Under the stimulus program, renamed from Out and About, NSW adults will be given four $25 vouchers for local businesses through their Service NSW account.
The $500 million scheme was the centrepiece of the state government’s November budget.
It was planned to trial the program in The Rocks, Sydney’s CBD and Broken Hill in the state’s far west before rolling it out statewide from late January.
But outbreaks of COVID-19 have affected the CBD and Broken Hill in recent weeks.
Mr Dominello said the “number one priority” remains public safety.
“We must work shoulder to shoulder with health experts to ensure the program is rolled out safely,” he said.
The trial had already been pushed back due to business feedback that the stimulus would be more useful after the busy Christmas period.
It is now expected to commence in February and will include a fourth area on top of those already announced: the northern beaches.
A NSW government spokeswoman told AAP that the roll-out would be fast tracked in the northern beaches to support businesses impacted by restrictions over the Christmas and New Year period.
Residents of the peninsula’s northern zone are still subject to a stay-at-home order, with the Avalon cluster standing at 149 cases.
“By including the northern beaches in the trial it will ensure we fast track stimulus spending at a time when they need it most,” Mr Dominello said in a statement.
As some businesses experience increased demand over the summer holiday period, and others traditionally close their doors, the northern beaches lockdown will have affected sectors differently.
The government wants to ensure its aid is targeted at those most in need and will task the state’s Small Business Commissioner to determine the impact of restrictions on different segments of the local economy.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet met with northern beaches business leaders last weekend, along with NSW Finance and Small Business Minister Damien Tudehope, local members, and Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash.
“The sooner we can get on top of this outbreak and ease restrictions the better it will be for the local economy,” Mr Perrottet told AAP.
“Encouraging people to support local businesses in a safe way through the Dine & Discover program will provide an important boost for the region after a tough Christmas.”
NSW residents will be able to use two of the Dine & Discover vouchers at restaurants, cafes, pubs and other hospitality venues between Mondays and Thursdays.
The other two are for entertainment and recreation venues, like museums, live music and arts venues.