Scott Morrison has reiterated that the COVID-19 lockdown in New South Wales is not only a health crisis but an economic one too, which the commonwealth and state governments will be meeting with expanded support payments for individuals and businesses.
The prime minister announced an upgrade to commonwealth disaster payments for residents of NSW on Tuesday afternoon.
The new payments will be equivalent to the now phased-out JobKeeper payments and will only need to be applied for once.
“What we’ve learned during the pandemic is you do what works – and when you need to do it again, you do what works,” Morrison said of the government payments.
“The support that has been provided through this cash flow boost is not only commensurate with what was provided last time, but in most cases, it’s actually greater because it needs to be more concentrated.”
Under the new arrangements, the federal government will make available disaster payments of up to $600 weekly if they have lost 20 or more hours of work each week.
For those workers who have lost between 8-20 hours of work per week, the weekly support payment will be $375.
Eligible recipients for the payments will not have had to have lost their jobs to access the support payments.
The ‘unprecedented’ support package will see the federal government contribute $5 billion and the NSW state government $4.1 billion for payments to support individuals and businesses respectively.
The PM said because of the ‘more severe and more dangerous’ lockdown situation that COVID had wrought against NSW, he decided to increase government assistance beyond that which was offered to Victoria when the state went into its May circuit-breaker lockdown.
NSW is facing its fourth week of lockdown restrictions.
“This has been a period of great cooperation between the commonwealth and the state government. The pandemic continues to evolve. It continues to set its own rules,” Morrison said.
“We must continue to work together to keep pace and where possible, get ahead of those events wherever we possibly can.”
A National Cabinet agreement was reached several weeks ago, the PM said, that so long as Australia’s policy was to suppress COVID-19, the government would need to guarantee a support system was in place for citizens and businesses to ensure that lockdowns were effective.
The PM added that the federal government adhered to key principles in providing that support, namely a response that was targeted, timely, proportionate, scalable, and accessible.
The NSW government will be contributing money to see that support payments are delivered to all workers in the state so that even those who do not live or work in a commonwealth declared hot spot can access support.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced new protections for residential tenants with a moratorium on targeted evictions.
“Residential landlords who decrease rent for impacted tenants can apply for a grant of up to $1,500 or land tax reductions depending on their circumstances,” a statement from the premier read.
The NSW government unveiled its business support package on Tuesday, noting that the commonwealth would contribute $1 billion to its business and employee support program.
Under the program, businesses with a turnover up to $10 million can access grants between $7,500 to $15,000.
Grants for smaller micro businesses with a turnover between $30,000 and $75,000 area also available from the state government.
“While our health and medical staff are fighting COVID-19 on the frontline, this comprehensive support package is aimed at saving jobs and protecting businesses until the lockdown is over,” Berejiklian said.
For those businesses that have experienced a 30% decline in turnover, the NSW government said it would waive payroll tax of 25% for businesses with Australian wages between $1.2 million and $10 million.
“We saw last year during the first lockdown the importance of protecting jobs and ensuring people remained connected with their workplace,” NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.
“This is a mighty package aimed at ensuring the NSW economy bends in the storm but doesn’t snap. We will come out the other side with a few scrapes but more determined than ever.”