The Victorian Minister for Small Business Jaal Pulford has announced the government will inject $26 million in funding to provide mental health support for the state’s sole traders and small business owners.
Pulford said the government acknowledges that Victorians are doing it tough and the funding will provide much-needed support to alleviate the emotional stress and impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
As part of the program, St John Ambulance will provide accredited mental health support training to chambers of commerce across Victoria to boost mental health capabilities within local business communities.
Mental health specialists will also be embedded in industry and business associations to provide members with immediate access to expert advisors and on-the-job training for staff to identify and respond to people in distress
“This is an extremely difficult time for business owners and their workers and it’s important that we provide practical, accessible support across the board,” Pulford said.
In addition, the Partners in Wellbeing telephone hotline – a free mental health support service delivered by EACH, Neami National and the Australian Community Support Organisation – will be extended to 10:00 pm seven days a week and expanded to also include immediate access to business advisers and financial counsellors.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said the COVID-19 crisis is the toughest challenge many businesses will ever face.
“We know that some [businesses] will not make it through. We also know mental health will be an ongoing issue as we move into recovery, so this program will be a welcome help for many business owners and their staff.”
The delivery of the new services will begin this month.
In addition to the funding announced to support small business owners’ mental health, the Victorian Government has provided more than $6.5 billion to support businesses and workers since the onset of the pandemic.
“We encourage people to pick up the phone and use these services so as a community we can weather the coronavirus storm in the best shape possible – on all fronts,” Pulford concluded.
Businesses affected by current restrictions can apply for a grant from the Business Support Fund – Expansion program until 14 September 2020. Grants of $10,000 are available for eligible businesses in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire, and $5,000 in regional Victoria. To apply, go to business.vic.gov.au.
The Partners in Wellbeing mental health support hotline is 1300 375 330.
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