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Tough going for helping-hand enterprises in COVID crisis

“It’s difficult to grasp the knock-on effects of when organisations like our social enterprises are forced to close the doors,” he said.

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“We’re a cafe and catering business first and foremost, but it’s a lot more than that for the communities we are supporting and the volunteers who are coming through and who we’re training.”

Mike McKinstry, chief executive of peak body and certification agency Social Traders, said the sector had been growing before the pandemic, boosted by state government social procurement efforts, but many not-for-profits were now struggling.

“The Victorian government has been very, very supportive of trying to support the sector,” Mr McKinstry said.

“But…we’re beginning to find that some of these enterprises are beginning to struggle financially…they’re just saying we’re just struggling to keep going.”

Co-Ground is a Melbourne events and catering non-profit that supports health and education and training projects both in the Asia Pacific region and closer to home for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

Chief executive Andrew Mellody says Co-Ground is another social enterprise that has been hit hard by the pandemic, but he believes the venture can get to the other side.

“Because we work in events and hospitality, during lockdown our business just flatlines, which makes it…a very difficult and challenging time for us,” Mr Mellody said.

“We are confident, but it is incredibly hard to see social enterprises that we know and love having to close their doors permanently.”

A spokesman for the state’s Industry Recovery Minister Martin Pakula encouraged not-for-profits struggling through the pandemic to access the grants available from the government.

“The Small Business COVID Hardship Fund has been created to help businesses that have fallen between the cracks for support and are experiencing severe impacts due to the pandemic,” the spokesman said.

“We encourage social enterprises to investigate their eligibility. Grants of $14,000 are available and we will process applications as quickly as we can.”

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