Covid Impacts, Needs and Solutions
On Friday, 20 August 2021, Women in Business Mornington Peninsula hosted a forum to understand the impacts of COVID on our business and community with the purpose of considering how we may better advocate for them. We were joined (virtually) by 35 business owners and industry leaders and decision makers. We heard the significant impacts that our community is experiencing. We heard their concerns, their needs and their hopes for the future.
Attendees had the opportunity to share their experiences with others in their industry and with our local politicians. Stories were unsurprisingly common and though everyone agreed the issues are complex and without simplistic answers, there were common hopes and interests.
Across represented industries of tourism & hospitality, health & wellbeing, professional development, environmental management, education, administration, finance and planning services – attendees described:
Extreme fatigue and exhaustion associated with repetitive lockdowns and managing business/profession and family.
Increased care demands associated with being responsible for family and team wellbeing needs.
Fears connected to financial instability – paying rent, staff wages – taking up loans or dipping into tax savings to pay bills and keep afloat.
Fears connected to business and industry instability without any clear understanding of what supports exist and will be ongoing and what the plan is for the future.
Attendees described inadequate support and fears for the future.
They were concerned that with an extension of the current situation:
There would be a deepening mental health crisis, with enormous implications – for them, their families and their community.
They would not be able to maintain their business and would have further job losses.
Expanding attrition rates in industries already struggling to retain staff, without supports that keep staff connected to industries and with ongoing implications beyond opening.
Going backward on gender equity where women are most impacted by this experience and are considering downgrading careers or giving up businesses.
Ongoing housing crises and deepening of impacts to those already amongst our most vulnerable.
Attendees spoke clearly about feeling relatively supported last year in the heart of our longest lockdown. While difficult, the extensive measures in place, both at a State and Federal level seemed to understand the magnitude of the issue and protected us from the worst of the lockdown effects.
Business and community now feel afloat.
Measures are sporadic, inconsistent, lacking in clarity and significance. We do not feel protected for the long term nature of this lockdown, nor do we have clarity around the plan for now and the future.
What attendees described as their top 3 needs and our priorities for advocacy:
Strong focus on mental health as a priority in the COVID health response.
Focus on financial supports at State & Federal levels: specifically, a return to JobKeeper to keep staff connected and businesses viable, ATO debt relief, Payroll tax refunds and relief, bank supports and ongoing grants, diverse and commensurate with impact.
Stability – a roadmap for our future. What happens between now and 70/80% and what can we expect now and then? We’re seeking a sophisticated, transparent and data-driven plan that can inject some clarity into this moment.
At this forum we were joined by community leaders MP Chris Brayne, MPSC Mayor Despi O’Connor, MPSC Councillor and Small Business Champion, Anthony Marsh, MPSC Councillor Kerri McCafferty and MPSC Councillor Sarah Race