A support package to help NSW businesses through what will be at least nine weeks of lockdown until 28 August will be expanded, as well as increased financial support for workers.
Following Wednesday morning’s announcement from NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian that her state would be facing another four weeks of public health ordered lockdown, came news that businesses would be supported by an expanded government payment.
The joint Commonwealth and NSW state government funded business package will be expanded to weekly payments of between $1,500 and $100,000 to eligible entities (including not-for-profits). The level of support payments are based on 40% of a business’ payroll level, with the maximum threshold for turnover increased to $250 million.
Non-employing businesses such as sole-traders will continue to receive a set payment of $1,000 per week.
A statement issued by prime minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday said the extra money would help businesses cover ongoing expenses such as rent, insurance and maintenance, as well as employee costs for the period of the lockdown.
“These businesses are the ones we all need still standing to drive the recovery on the other side,” Morrison said.
“Whether you’re a worker who has lost their income or a business that’s suffering, even more help is on the way.”
One of the conditions of the government payment is that businesses maintain the number of employees (permanent and long-term casual staff) on their books as at 13 July.
Morrison said the expanded support package would help to maintain the connection between employers and employees, which would back economic recovery once the lockdown restrictions in NSW were eased.
Appearing before a press conference to announce the measures, the pm responded to a question about whether he would be prepared to change the COVID support measures again should the lockdown in NSW go beyond 28 August.
Morrison reiterated that one of the features of the JobSaver program was that it was capable of adapting to community circumstances needed. He added that unlike last year’s six-month nationwide JobKeeper scheme, which businesses across the country have called for the return of, this scheme was more effective because it was targeted and efficient.
“JobKeeper was a great scheme but you don’t play last year’s grand final this year. You deal with this year’s challenges, you deal with this moment’s problems,” Morrison said.
“We have not seen an uptick in people going onto JobSeeker, because they understand they’re getting that support from the government and they’re staying with their employers.
“That means in a month, hopefully, when business returns, they’ll go back into work with those employers, they’ll get on with their jobs, and our economy will roar back to life.”
Given another announcement that COVID-19 disaster payments for individuals have also been increased, the government is making payments to eligible people at JobKeeper rates: $750 weekly for those who lose 20 hours or more of work, and $450 weekly for those who lose between 8-20 hours (or a full day of work).
Affected citizens must either live or work in an affected COVID-19 hotspot, and the new rate will be processed for the week commencing 2 August.
“Our measures of support are ‘never set and forget’,” Morrison said.
“All states and territories, together with the commonwealth, are working closely as we’re adjusting how we’re doing with this Delta strain, how we’re adjusting on the ground when it comes to the way lockdowns are being put in quick and effective as we’ve seen, and those states who [have been able] to come out of it.”
No liquid assets test will apply to the boosted worker payment scheme, payments will be made from day one of any future lockdown. People will be able to apply to ServicesAustralia to claim the workers’ payment from day eight in arrears for the previous seven days. A weekly payment will then be made to workers for the duration of the hotspot declaration.
Morrison also said it was important for all governments to learn the lessons of the past to ensure that where ongoing support was required, it was provided to individuals and businesses. For now, it was those in NSW who needed the extra leg up, he said.
At current rates, the prime minister said the expanded support scheme for businesses was costing taxpayers $750 million. This did not include the added cost of support being provided by the NSW state government, he said.
“Now, that was basically what we were doing last year in Victoria when Victoria was in the same lockdown. So it’s a commensurate level of support.
“The state government is also putting in significant supports beyond that as well. So there is a great deal of economic support going in at the moment, and what that is doing is keeping the NSW economy as whole as possible,” Morrison said.
According to treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the business support scheme expanded to an extra 1,900 businesses who employ about 300,000 people. It will also offer more generous payments to some businesses who are currently receiving COVID support payments.
“The expansion of the NSW COVID-19 business payment remains consistent with the approach we have taken throughout the pandemic in delivering temporary, targeted and proportionate economic support,” Frydenberg said.
Those businesses who had already applied for the support payment will have the amount automatically adjusted in step with the new changes.