DESE provides detailed guidance on application on new COVID Viability Support Package
The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) has produced a new fact sheet that provides detailed guidance on the application of the Viability Support Package announced by Minister for Education and Youth, Alan Tudge on 23 August 2021.
The package has been designed to provide targeted support to early childhood education and care (ECEC) services that have been adversely impacted by the latest round of COVID-19 related lockdowns.
The DESE guidance confirms services may be eligible for payments if they are located in a Commonwealth designated hotspot and:
- the Commonwealth hotspot runs for more than seven days, and the state or territory government has limited who can access child care, or
- the Commonwealth hotspot extends beyond 28 days
Eligible centre based day care, family day care and in home care services will receive fortnightly payments of 25 per cent of their reference period revenue calculated up to the hourly cap, and eligible outside school hours care (OSHC) and vacation care services will receive fortnightly payments of 40 per cent of their reference period revenue calculated up to the hourly cap.
The payments will be based on revenue in a specific reference period before lockdowns commenced.
Receipt of the payments is conditional on a set of additional eligibility criteria that include four main items.
Services must reasonably expect attendance to fall by 50%
Services must have a reasonable expectation that during each fortnight they receive the support payment, attendance at the service will be equal to or less than 50 per cent of the average charged hours the service experienced during the reference fortnight (as outlined above).
The Department guidance acknowledges that attendance levels may fluctuate over the period the service is in receipt of the support payment and expects services to notify them if circumstances change which includes services that may initially opt-out because the 50 per cent threshold was not met who then want to opt-in.
Services must not access other Commonwealth-funded COVID-related business support from 6 September 2021
DESE have confirmed specifically that services will not be eligible to receive the Viability Support Package payments if they have received other COVID-19 related business supports such as JobSaver, ACT COVID-19 Business Support Grant and the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund (Victoria).
This condition does not apply to the COVID-19 Disaster Payment, which is available to individuals, and to services that have received Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) Restricted or CCCF Open rounds grants.
These can be accessed as well as the Viability Support Package.
Services must waive gap fees for all families whose children are not attending and freeze fee increases
To be eligible for the payment, services must be waiving gap fees for all children who are not attending care.
Where services have children enrolled that do not receive the Child Care Subsidy due to family ineligibility, there is no requirement to waive fees where these children do not attend. This will not impact a service’s compliance with the gap fee waiver condition for the payment.
They must also agree to a fee freeze for the duration of the business continuity payments.
Maintaining staffing levels
Services must commit to an employment guarantee by maintaining the headcount of permanent full-time, permanent part-time and long-term casual covered employees, and continue to employ those employees and educators who were employed during the relevant employment reference fortnight.
This maintenance does not include employees who are let go due to misconduct or choose to leave themselves such as moving to a new job or retirement.
The reference period for the employment guarantee will differ from the reference period for attendance and revenue.
For the employee headcount, it will be the fortnight prior to eligibility for the payment.
- For Greater Sydney, the Australian Capital Territory and Melbourne OSHC services, this will be the fortnight ending 22 August 2021
- For regional New South Wales, the rest of Victorian services, this will be the fortnight ending 27 August 2021.
To access the DESE detailed guidance please click here.