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Blue Mountains: community support and resilience through adverse events

The Blue Mountains community has responded to a number of adverse events in recent years, with bushfires and flooding impacting the region. However, nothing quite like COVID-19 has occurred before, and its impact has been unprecedented.

How has the Blue Mountains managed through COVID-19?

As a small business owner in the Blue Mountains, have you wondered how the pandemic has affected your region compared to the rest of Australia? The impact of COVID-19 has been an extra challenge following the recent bushfires in the area.

Across Australia, industries operating in food and beverage services, air travel and tourism, creative arts and entertainment, and sports and recreation activities have been reported among those most impacted by COVID-191. These types of businesses rely heavily on the physical presence of customers and face many challenges in adapting to restrictions.

There is a large overlap between the industries hit hardest by COVID-19 Australia-wide and the top industries in the Blue Mountains. In the Blue Mountains, these industries make up 74% of jobs.

This means that 17.4% of local businesses applied for JobKeeper support during the pandemic, placing the Blue Mountains at 64/506 of Australia’s Local Government Areas requiring this support3.

The Blue Mountains is starting to show some economic recovery. Employment has been steadily rising and is now only 0.9% less than pre-pandemic times4.

The impact of COVID on small businesses in the Blue Mountains

The Ahead for Business team has been engaging with the Blue Mountains small business community since mid-2020. Through this experience, the team found that small business owners in the Blue Mountains were most stressed about finances and the impact on their staff during the midst of the pandemic. Some other stressors associated with COVID-19 were:

  • Many businesses did not have the chance to recover from the 2019/20 bushfires before COVID-19 hit.
  • Tourism brings customers to a lot of the small businesses in the region, and with no customers many businesses saw large decreases in revenue.
  • Numerous businesses had no choice but to let staff go, leaving owners to take on the extra work and responsibility.
  • Emerging out of COVID, some businesses (for example in food services) are struggling to find skilled staff.

Understandably, as a small business owner, you may feel stressed during these uncertain times. It is therefore essential that you look after yourself.

Looking after your wellbeing in the Blue Mountains

With the unpredictable nature of COVID-19, you may continue to be faced with the challenges that come with restrictions and uncertainty. It is important to be prepared and proactive about looking after your mental health during these times. Taking care of yourself, even when you are feeling mentally healthy, will put you in a better position to cope when things aren’t going so well. There are a lot of ways you can look after yourself and improve your mental wellbeing as a small business owner in the Blue Mountains.

  • Get active: Take a walk around the beautiful Blue Mountains and breathe in that fresh air. There are so many beautiful walks around to take advantage of. You could even join your local gym to do some more high intensity activity.
  • Chat with others: Join one of your local networking groups, such as Women with Altitude or Local Area Marketing and Networking. You can chat with other like-minded business owners who will understand your business challenges.
  • Social connection: Maintain connections with friends and family. Even if they are not local, a phone call or video chat can be scheduled any time.
  • Do something relaxing: This might be a bubble bath with candles, a trip to your local day spa, or taking a meditation or yoga class.
  • Prioritise your health: Make time to attend health appointments and visit your local GP. Looking after your physical and mental health is important for your wellbeing.
  • Change your workplace: Make small changes to your day-to-day activities. For example, take your lunch breaks, go for a small walk, or finish work on time.

Practical support for Blue Mountains businesses

Despite JobKeeper and other government supports ending, there is some financial assistance you can access as a small business owner.

  • COVID-19 support package: The NSW government announced a support package for businesses, including grants of up to $10,000 and an extension on Dine and Discover vouchers until the end of August 2021.
  • Small business fees and charges rebate: Up to the value of $1,500, this rebate is to help offset the cost of NSW and local government fees such as licencing or council rates.
  • The Business relief package: The NSW government may guarantee up to 80% of your loan. This extends the length and size of loans available to small businesses, increases the amount of eligible businesses.
  • You can book a business concierge call to help guide you through the regulations and assistance available to small business.

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