The Western Australian government has announced a $607 million stimulus package to support families, small businesses, and the economy as the coronavirus escalates.
There will be an immediate freeze to increases in household fees and charges including electricity, water, motor vehicle charges, the emergency services levy and public transport fares, according to Premier Mark McGowan and Treasurer Ben Wyatt.
An allocation of $402m in the 2020-21 Budget will go towards paying for the freeze. McGowan noted it’s the first time household fees and charges have been frozen in WA in 16 years.
Wyatt said the expenses are an “impost” on many families, “particularly during times of uncertainty”.
“The McGowan government was examining ways to provide relief to households as part of the upcoming State Budget but, due to the ongoing concerns around COVID-19, it’s appropriate that we announce the freeze now, to give families some certainty going forward,” he added.
The government will also allocate $91m to double the Energy Assistance Payment in 2020-21, allowing for the payment to increase from $300 to $600 for eligible concession card-holders.
The stimulus package includes $114m in measures to support Western Australian small and medium businesses, including a one-off grant of $17,500 to payroll tax paying businesses with a payroll between $1m and $4m.
Small and medium sized businesses affected by the coronavirus can apply to defer payment of their 2019-20 payroll tax until July 21.
The deferral is available to employers who pay $7.5 million or less in Australian Taxable Wages and have been directly or indirectly impacted by COVID-19, compared to normal operating conditions.
McGowan has urged Western Australians to support local businesses as the state manages the impacts of the coronavirus.
He said pandemic is “a constantly evolving situation” and the government “stands ready to respond in any way necessary”.
“Further measures to support the state’s economy are under consideration and will be rolled out as required,” he added.
Wyatt said the stimulus package “works hand in glove with the Commonwealth government”, and complements the $17.6 billion stimulus package announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week.